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Abstract

A compilation of data for Cretaceous and Cenozoic Antarctic fossil wood floras, predominantly from the James Ross Island Basin, provides a different perspective on floristic and vegetation change when compared with previous studies that have focused on leaf macrofossils or palynology. The wood record provides a filtered view of tree-forming elements within the vegetation, something that cannot be achieved from studies focusing on regional palynology or leaf floras. Four phases of vegetation development in the over-storey are recognized in the Cretaceous and Cenozoic of the Antarctic Peninsula based on the distribution and taxonomic composition of wood floras: Aptian–Albian coniferous forests; ?Cenomanian-Santonian mixed angiosperm forests; Campanian–Maastrichtian southern temperate forests; and Palaeocene-Eocene reduced diversity Nothofagus forests. Comparisons between the wood record and information derived from palynological and leaf floras have important implications for our understanding of the spatial composition of the vegetation. There is no doubt that climate change during the Cretaceous and Tertiary influenced the vegetational composition, but evolving palaeoenvironments in the Antarctic Peninsula region were probably of equal, if not greater, importance.

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