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Impact of past seasonality on the present

The global climate change that led to the spread of grasslands and rise of the modern climate lies 23 million years in the past. Researchers have combined models of the changing vegetation with fossil data to find out how it happened.
Impact of past seasonality on the present
Major societal challenges in the Mediterranean region are caused by environmental and climate change. One of the major changes that took place in the deep past was the spread of grasslands and concomitant changes in seasonality. The mechanisms that lead to this major change are not well understood, requiring more research. The major aim of the project was to understand the past and use the knowledge to help understand present climate and environmental changes.

The EU-funded SEASONS (Understanding the impact of seasonality in terrestrial bio-geosystems during the last 23 million years) initiative investigated seasonality in terrestrial ecosystems of the northern hemisphere for the last 23 million years. The researchers combined vegetation models and fossil data.

SEASONS used vegetation modelling that spanned from the Late Miocene (11-7 million years ago) to the Middle Miocene (15 million years ago). The researchers studied also carbon and other isotopes, concentrating on Africa, western North America and western Eurasia.

The researchers found that carbon dioxide (CO2) levels in the Late Miocene were probably lower than current levels, while the Middle Miocene showed higher levels. Thus, current levels of CO2 are likely the highest in the last 11 million years.

SEASONS found that the uplift of western North American mountain chains radically affected the environment, and mammals in particular. This sheds new light on the continental environmental history of North America in relation to Europe 55-23 million years ago.

This research will help in developing new adaptation practices in conservation biology, and strengthen cross-disciplinary work in palaeobiology and climatology.

Related information


Seasonality, climate change, grasslands, seasons, Miocene, CO2
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