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Paleoecology+lecture+notes.doc

Paleoecology+lecture+notes.doc - Ecology is the study of...

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Ecology is the study of the relationships between living things and their environment. Paleoecology = ecology of the past What was the ecology of the New York City area like 12,000 years ago? Was it warmer or colder? Were the plants and animals the same? Why would we want to know this? Knowledge from the past may help us understand what we see today. Maybe we can use this information to predict or prepare for the future. An example of famous paleoecology science paper that showed us what happened in the past so we can understand patterns and know what to expect in the future (Hays, Imbrie and Shackleton): Using ocean cores, forams, oxygen isotopes: We know that ice ages occur and last for about 100,000 years and that they are separated by warm phases that last about 10,000-20,000 years. We are in a warm phase now.
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During an ice age: Ice sheets grow larger Sea levels get lower Plants and animals redistribute themselves. Ice conditions today: How does a glacier grow? More snow falls than that which melts in the summer; it accumulates.
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This is how much of the USA was covered with ice during the Last Glacial Maximum, 18,000 years ago. Did NYC look something like this 12,000 years ago ? ice , mastodons, sabertooth cats, tundra vegetation……. How can we find out? To trace the ecology of the past you need evidence: -Fossils of microscopic size (microfossils) are everywhere and abundant. -Microfossils are biological indicators of past environments. -If you know the ecological requirements of the various fossil species and their current geographic distributions, you can infer the environmental conditions of where you found them.
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Some examples of microfossils: -Pollen grains: microscopic structures that carry male genetic material from one plant to the next; indicators of vegetation -Diatoms: microscopic, single-celled algae (most abundant in water); indicators of water pH, temp, salinity -Foraminifera: simple, aquatic, amoeboid protozoans (mostly marine); indicators of salinity, temperature, oxygen ratios Palynology: the study of pollen and spores The reconstruction of a vegetation history is largely dependent on fossil pollen.
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