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Plant ecological strategies shift across the Cretaceous-Paleogene boundary.

  • Author(s): Blonder, Benjamin
  • Royer, Dana L
  • Johnson, Kirk R
  • Miller, Ian
  • Enquist, Brian J
  • et al.
Abstract

The Chicxulub bolide impact caused the end-Cretaceous mass extinction of plants, but the associated selectivity and ecological effects are poorly known. Using a unique set of North Dakota leaf fossil assemblages spanning 2.2 Myr across the event, we show among angiosperms a reduction of ecological strategies and selection for fast-growth strategies consistent with a hypothesized recovery from an impact winter. Leaf mass per area (carbon investment) decreased in both mean and variance, while vein density (carbon assimilation rate) increased in mean, consistent with a shift towards "fast" growth strategies. Plant extinction from the bolide impact resulted in a shift in functional trait space that likely had broad consequences for ecosystem functioning.

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