Abstract

A semi-quantitative evaluation method has been developed to map integrated fossil plant records (leaf, fruit, and pollen assemblages) in terms of zonal vegetation. It incorporates taxonomy, physiognomy, and autecological features of the fossil plants. To derive vegetation types, the final stage of this method involves a quantitative evaluation. The maps presented here are based on 198 organ assemblages from 173 localities and stratigraphic levels of the Miocene–early Pliocene across Europe. They cover three time intervals: (1) 4–7 Ma (Messinian–middle Zanclean; late Miocene–early Pliocene); (2) 8.5– 12 Ma (latest Serravallian–middle Tortonian); and (3) 14–17 Ma (late Burdigalian–late Langhian). We also look at the interval 13–14 Ma (late Langhian–early Serravallian). They not only show vegetation types but offer more detailed information on the composition of these associations (proportions of major components). The major zonal vegetation types recognized here are broad-leaved deciduous forests, mixed mesophytic forests, broad-leaved evergreen forests, subhumid sclerophyllous forests, open woodlands, and xeric grasslands. Between 14 Ma and 17 Ma, broad-leaved evergreen forests were widespread, and subhumid sclerophyllous forests were more strongly represented in western parts of Central Europe than in eastern parts. In the interval 8.5–12 Ma, broad-leaved deciduous forests largely replaced the evergreen forests, although these were still present in some refugia (e.g., the Lower Rhine embayment and northern Balkan peninsula), and first records of xeric grasslands are found along the northern margin of the Black Sea. The more discontinuous record available from 4 Ma to 7 Ma indicates that broad-leaved evergreen forests still occurred in northern parts of the Mediterranean (northern Italy, Balkan peninsula), while open woodlands increasingly appeared in central and southern parts of Italy and Greece.

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