Abstract

Based on high-resolution palynological analysis of 680 samples from a core, short-term changes in plant diversity and floristic composition within the Paleogene greenhouse were detected in the lacustrine succession of a lower to middle Eocene maar lake at Messel (Federal State of Hesse, Germany). The microfloristic data show that taxonomic diversity increased rapidly within some decades during recolonization of a volcanically devastated area around the lake. With the establishment of a climax vegetation at the end of recolonization, the maximum in palynological diversity was reached within the crater area. During the following 640 Kyr the composition of the palynospectrum changed only gradually. However, different richness and evenness estimations show that alpha and gamma diversity decreased up to 35%, which can be related to the establishment of an equilibrium stage within the climax vegetation that led to the dominance of an assemblage of self-replacing species. Nevertheless, time-series analysis of alpha-diversity changes within the climax vegetation reveals that orbitally controlled climate change of Milankovitch and sub-Milankovitch order influenced the diversity of the vegetation, resulting in a rise of beta diversity. Based on the composition of the vegetation and comparison to modern analogues, our analysis proves that Eocene paratropical plant diversity increased during periods of slightly higher temperature and precipitation. Therefore, both composition and diversity of the vegetation was highly susceptible to minor-scale, short-term changes in climate, even during equable greenhouse conditions.

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