Abstract

Geoecodynamics integrates relevant concepts and knowledge from the earth and life sciences into a cross-disciplinary synthesis. Within the encompassing framework of earth system science, the concepts and methods of (palaeo-)geoecodynamics are obtained from biogeography, geomorphology, genomics, structural geology, tectonics, geochronology, sedimentology, palaeoecology and evolutionary biology. The analytical strengths of this cross-disciplinary science are enabled by phylogeography and ecology. Positioning the earth and life sciences in a novel association to study life as an earth surface process, geoecodynamics deciphers details of biodiversity dynamics to resolve tenures of landforms. Explorations of the genomic record of earth history forms the epistemic core of geoecodynamics, and quantifying species’ tenures in dynamic landscapes hold the keys to unravelling hitherto unobtainable details of landscape evolution. The metaphor of a palimpsest emphasizes that landscapes preserve complex archives of landform dynamics, and that these previously untapped repositories of evolutionary history can now be deciphered. Here, interrogations of the genomic record are structured in a palaeoecological framework to quantify interlinked tenures of species; their archives of DNA variation constitute this evidence for landform dynamics preserved in the palimpsest. The concept of the phylogeographic record defines how a unique envelope of genomic variation can reveal when formative (e.g. tectonic) events shaped the interrelated tenures of a landform and its associated species. It is especially the phylogeographic records of ecological specialists (stenotopic species) that preserve coevolutionary signatures, which, constrained by molecular clocks, reveal where and when formative events modified the palimpsest. We show, by way of an example from the central Kalahari Plateau, that geoecodynamics can quantify, with tight fidelity and a precision as low as 0.1 kyr, how the tempo and mode of landscape dynamics has interacted with earth’s systems, through linking phylogeographic records of mammals and fishes to decipher subtle tectonic events in the Kalahari epeirogeny. Pursuing these insights to their obvious conclusion, geoecodynamics allows deep probing into the solid earth to connect the tempo and mode of landscape evolution with mantle convection.

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