Abstract

The late Early to early Middle Eocene Okanagan Highlands fossil sites, spanning ∼1000 km north–south (northeastern Washington State, southern British Columbia) provide an opportunity to reconstruct biotic communities across a broad upland landscape during the warmest part of the Cenozoic. Plant taxa from these fossil sites are characteristic of the modern eastern North American deciduous forest zone, principally the mixed mesophytic forest, but also include extinct taxa, taxa known only from eastern Asian mesothermal forests, and a small number of taxa restricted to the present-day North American west coast coniferous biome. In this preliminary report, paleoclimates and forest types are reconstructed using collections from Republic in Washington State, USA., and Princeton, Quilchena, Falkland, McAbee, Hat Creek, Horsefly, and Driftwood Canyon in British Columbia, Canada. Both leaf margin analysis (LMA) and quantitative bioclimatic analysis of identified nearest living relatives of megaflora indicated upper microthermal to lower mesothermal moist environments (MAT ∼10–15 °C, CMMT > 0 °C, MAP > 100 cm/year). Some taxa common to most sites suggest cool conditions (e.g., Abies, other Pinaceae; Alnus, other Betulaceae). However, all floras contain a substantive broadleaf deciduous element (e.g., Fagaceae, Juglandaceae) and conifers (e.g., Metasequoia) with the bioclimatic analysis yielding slightly higher MAT than LMA. Thermophilic (principally mesothermal) taxa include various insects, the aquatic fern Azolla, palms, the banana relative Ensete, taxodiaceous conifers, Eucommia and Gordonia, taxa which may have occurred near their climatic limits. The mixture of thermophilic and temperate insect and plant taxa indicates low-temperature seasonality (i.e., highly equable climate).

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