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Article: Palaeoproxies: botanical monitors and recorders of atmospheric change

Palaeontology - Vol. 58 Part 5 - Cover Image
Publication: Palaeontology
Volume: 58
Part: 5
Publication Date: September 2015
Page(s): 759 768
Author(s): Barry H. Lomax, and Wesley T. Fraser
Addition Information

How to Cite

LOMAX, B.H., FRASER, W.T. 2015. Palaeoproxies: botanical monitors and recorders of atmospheric change. Palaeontology, 58, 5, 759-768. DOI: 10.1111/pala.12180

Author Information

  • Barry H. Lomax - The School of Biosciences The University of Nottingham Division of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Sutton Bonington Leicestershire UK (Email:
  • Wesley T. Fraser - Oxford Brookes University Geography Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences Oxford UK (Email:
  • Wesley T. Fraser - The Open University Environment, Earth & Ecosystems Milton Keynes UK

Publication History

  • Issue published online: 28 August 2015
  • Article first published online: 01 January 1970
  • Manuscript Accepted: 22 May 2015
  • Manuscript Received: 26 February 2015

Funded By

NERC. Grant Numbers: NER/A/S/2002/00865, NE/K005294/1
Leverhulme trust. Grant Number: ECF/2006/0492
Royal Society. Grant Number: RG120535

Online Version Hosted By

Wiley Online Library (Free Access)
Get Article: Wiley Online Library [Free Access]


The integration of plant and Earth sciences offers the opportunity to develop and test palaeobotanical monitors and recorders (palaeoproxies) of past atmospheric change that are understood from a mechanistic perspective, with the underpinning responses being identified and understood at the genetic level. This review highlights how this approach has been used to deliver two distinct palaeoproxies. The first is based on the negative relationship between stomata (breathing pores found on the leaf surface) and atmospheric CO2 concentration; the second is based on tracking chemical changes seen in the composition of pollen and spores to reconstruct changes in the flux of UV‐B radiation on the Earth's surface and from this infer changes in stratospheric processes linked to the eruption and emplacement of Large Igneous Provinces. Here, we highlight the potential of integrating a new rapid, inexpensive chemical analysis technique with existing, robust palynological methods, opening the door to a deeper understanding of past environments via the palaeobiological record. A look to the future suggests a combined solar radiation–CO2 concentration approach could be readily applied across the geological record.

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