The large negative excursion of carbon-isotope composition (δ13C) recorded from foraminifera and bulk carbonates indicates a major anomaly in the operation of the global carbon cycle across the Palaeocene-Eocene boundary. Therefore, we sought terrestrial evidence for the transfer of isotopically light carbon (12CO2) from the ocean to the atmosphere by making systematic δ13C measurements or well-dated sequences of fossil pollen from NW Europe. The results indicate an atmospheric 12CO2 spike of c. 2 % between 58 and 55 Ma coincident with the ocean isotopic anomalies. Pollen spectra from these sequences suggest a marked shift in dominance from mixed mesophytic to paratropical forests synchronous with the terrestrial isotope excursion.

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