Abstract

Early Eocene fossil floras from British Columbia are a rich resource for reconstructing western North American early Cenozoic climate. The best known of these floras reflect cooler (MAT ≤ 15 °C) upland forest communities in contrast to coeval (MAT ≥ 18 °C) forests in lowland western North American sites. Of particular interest is whether Early Eocene climates were monsoonal (highly seasonal precipitation). The McAbee site is a 52.9 ± 0.83 Ma 0.5 km outcrop of bedded lacustrine shale interbedded with volcanic ash. In this report two historical megaflora collections that were collected independently from different stratigraphic levels and (or) laterally separated by ∼100–200 m in the 1980s (University of Saskatchewan) and 2000s (Brandon University) are investigated to (i) assess whether they represent the same leaf population, (ii) assess whether a combined collection yields more precise climate estimates, and (iii) reconstruct paleoclimate to assess the character of regional Early Eocene precipitation seasonality. Combined, the two samples yielded 43 dicot leaf morphotypes. Analysis of leaf size distribution using ANOVA showed no difference between the two samples, and thus they were combined for climate analysis. Climate analysis using leaf physiognomy agrees with previous estimates for McAbee and other regional megafloras, indicating a warm (MAT ∼8–13 °C), mild (CMMT ∼5 °C), moist (MAP > 100 cm/year) ever-wet, non-monsoonal climate. Additionally, we recommend that climate analyses derived from leaf fossils should be based on samples collected within a stratigraphically constrained quarry area to capture a snapshot of climate in time rather than time-averaged estimates derived from multiple quarry sites representing different stratigraphic levels within a fossil site.

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