Forest flora and vegetation of the European early Palaeogene – a review

 

Authors: Kvaček Z

Published in: Bulletin of Geosciences, volume 85, issue 1; pages: 63 - 76; Received 6 May 2009; Accepted in revised form 5 October 2009; Online 8 January 2010

Keywords: Palaeocene, Eocene, Europe, flora, vegetation, phytogeography,

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Abstract

An attempt is made to follow the extent of forest types during the Palaeocene and Eocene in time and space over Europe. Problems that hinder producing more detailed maps of potential Eocene vegetation are the different palaeogeographic configuration of land and sea and changing relief due to orogeny, the variation in global climate, atmospheric circulation and the world ocean. The early Palaeogene palaeofloristic sites in Europe are widely spaced and the data so far obtained are of varying quality from one site to another. The differences between zonal, intrazonal (azonal) and extrazonal formations and impact of precipitation must be considered. Objective definitions of units based on diversity percentages of components are still to be elaborated. The macropalaeobotanical data thus far available allow us to distinguish intuitively three zonal vegetation types: 1) Broad-leaved evergreen/semi-evergreen quasi-paratropical forest with a high diversity of woody angiosperms related to tropical families, ferns and a low diversity of conifers (mostly Doliostrobus), 2) Broad-leaved nothophyllous evergreen forest with evergreen Fagaceae, Lauraceae, Altingiaceae, Myrtaceae and some conifers (Pinus, Doliostrobus, Cephalotaxus) and 3) Polar deciduous to mixed mesophytic forest with well diversified angiosperms predominantly deciduous and moderate representation of Ginkgo, conifers and ferns. Intrazonal (azonal) formations include riparian gallery forests, coal-forming swamp forests, and poorly developed mangroves with marginal freshwater wetland/aquatic vegetation. The Eocene extrazonal vegetation is less distinct in Europe, consisting probably of pine forests in high mountains and lowland sclerophyllous scrub on specific substrates.

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