Project 608 - Asia-Pacific Cretaceous Ecosystems

The Cretaceous “greenhouse” period is known for elevated atmospheric CO2 levels and much higher global sea levels than today. The Cretaceous period is thus an ideal study-object for the unravelling and understanding the development of ecosystems due to modern and future climatic changes. A great variety of well-preserved environments and ecosystems of the past can be found in the Cretaceous geological records of Asia and the Western Pacific rim. From these we can obtain abundant significant information.

The proposed projects’ aim is to delineate such Cretaceous ecosystems and how they responded to the paleo-environmental changes that affected the South-East Asian and adjacent Western Pacific region. This will be based on the multitude of the adequate information gathered from terrestrial and marine strata. We will depict how the types of ecosystems that were established during the Cretaceous evolved in Asia and the Western Pacific. Doing so, we will try to ascertain links between global and local environmental changes in both marine and terrestrial ecosystems.

This project comprises two groups of major topics to be discussed over five years.

1. Variations of Cretaceous terrestrial and marine environments in Asia and the Western Pacific

The terrestrial strata that are widely distributed in South and East Asia yield abundant indicators, both biotic and lithologic, that are essential for deciphering how the ecosystems, under which life developed, were affected by paleoclimatic and paleoenvironmental changes. We look thus forward to obtain important results such as the establishment of close links between atmospheric CO2 levels, global temperature and precipitation, climatic zonation patterns, paleo-weathering conditions and orbital-scale paleoclimatic fluctuations.

Marine sediment records in the Western Pacific rim and Eastern Tethys region provide several significant information on the Cretaceous marine paleoenvironmental changes, including paleooceanographic conditions, temperature fluctuations, latitudinal temperature gradients, OAEs (oceanic anoxic events), ORBs (oceanic red beds), ocean acidification, etc. We will also reconstruct each of those phenomena and their relationships in more detail over more expanded areas during five years.

2. Evolution of Cretaceous terrestrial and marine ecosystems in Asia and the Western Pacific

A diversified fossil record witnesses terrestrial and marine ecosystems in Paleo-Asia and the Pacific. This project, complementing basic paleontological and biostratigraphical studies, will plot the paleobiogeographic distribution of life on the largest continent and in the ocean, correlating the several faunas and floras in time and space. We will further investigate the structures and processes of evolution for terrestrial and marine ecosystems, while discussing important topics such as faunal and floral diversity and their turnover, patterns of extinctions and subsequent recoveries. We also expect important results such as newly discovered terrestrial vertebrate faunas, the oldest angiosperm, their origin and evolutionary trend, as well as their role during changes of the ecosystem.

While during this project we will comprehensively investigate both terrestrial and marine biotic responses to Cretaceous paleoenvironmental changes in Asia and the Western Pacific, we expect to be able to discuss the several kinds of linkage existing between their macro- and micro-biotic ecosystems.

The project has an important role in promoting communication at the level of geoscience among the various Asian countries, including some countries outside Asia, following the pattern of previous East Asian Cretaceous IGCPs (245, 350, 434 and 507).

The results of this project will increase and enhance our knowledge and understanding of present and future climatic changes using past global warming and the effects on the ecosystem as an example. Our results are expected also to promote scientific interest and public awareness in the dynamic ecosystems of the Cretaceous Earth as the past analogy of modern greenhouse Earth.

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