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From wetlands to wet spots: Environmental tracking and the fate of Carboniferous elements in Early Permian tropical floras

By
William A. DiMichele
William A. DiMichele
Department of Paleobiology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. 20560, USA
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Neil J. Tabor
Neil J. Tabor
Department of Geological Sciences, Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas 75275, USA
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Dan S. Chaney
Dan S. Chaney
Department of Paleobiology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. 20560, USA
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W. John Nelson
W. John Nelson
Illinois State Geological Survey, 615 East Peabody Drive, Champaign, Illinois 61820, USA
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Published:
January 01, 2006

Diverse wetland vegetation flourished at the margins of the Midland Basin in north-central Texas during the Pennsylvanian Period. Extensive coastal swamps and an ever-wet, tropical climate supported lush growth of pteridosperm, marattialean fern, lycopsid, and calamite trees, and a wide array of ground cover and vines. As the Pennsylvanian passed into the Permian, the climate of the area became drier and more seasonal, the great swamps disappeared regionally, and aridity spread. The climatic inferences are based on changes in sedimentary patterns and paleosols as well as the general paleobotanical trends. The lithological patterns include a change from a diverse array of paleosols, including Histosols (ever-wet waterlogged soils), in the late Pennsylvanian to greatly diminished paleosol diversity with poorly developed Vertisols by the Early–Middle Permian transition. In addition, coal seams were present with wide areal distribution in the late Pennsylvanian whereas beds of evaporates were common by the end of the Early Permian. During this climatic transition, wetland plants were confined to shrinking “wet spots” found along permanent streams where the vegetation they constituted remained distinct if increasingly depauperate in terms of species richness. By Leonardian (late Early Permian) time, most of the landscape was dominated by plants adapted to seasonal drought and a deep water table. Wetland elements were reduced to scattered pockets, dominated primarily by weedy forms and riparian specialists tolerant of flooding and burial. By the Middle Permian, even these small wetland pockets had disappeared from the region.

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Contents

GSA Special Papers

Wetlands through Time

Stephen F. Greb
Stephen F. Greb
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William A. DiMichele
William A. DiMichele
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Geological Society of America
Volume
399
ISBN print:
9780813723990
Publication date:
January 01, 2006

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