Abstract

Pennsylvanian tropical rain forests flourished during an icehouse climate mode. Although it is well established that Milankovitch-band glacial-interglacial rhythms caused marked synchronous changes in Pennsylvanian tropical climate and sea level, little is known of vegetation response to orbital forcing. This knowledge gap has now been addressed through sequence- stratigraphic analysis of megafloral and palynofloral assemblages within the Westphalian D–Cantabrian Sydney Mines Formation of eastern Canada. This succession was deposited in a low- accommodation setting where sequences can be attributed confidently to glacio-eustasy. Results show that long-lived, low-diversity peat mires dominated by lycopsids were initiated during deglaciation events, but were mostly drowned by rising sea level at maximum interglacial conditions. Only upland coniferopsid forests survived flooding without significant disturbance. Mid- to late interglacial phases witnessed delta-plain progradation and establishment of high-diversity, mineral-substrate rain forests containing lycopsids, sphenopsids, pteridosperms, cordaites, and tree ferns. Renewed glaciation resulted in sea-level fall, paleovalley incision, and the onset of climatic aridity. Glacial vegetation was dominated by cordaites, pteridosperms, and tree ferns; hydrophilic lycopsids and sphenopsids survived in paleovalley refugia. Findings clearly demonstrate the dynamic nature of Pennsylvanian tropical ecosystems and are timely given current debates about the impact of Quaternary glacial-interglacial rhythms on the biogeography of tropical rain forest.

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