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Subscriber: null; date: 16 January 2019

palaeobotany

Source:
The Oxford Companion to the Earth
Author(s):

Andrew C. Scott

palaeobotany 

Palaeobotany is the study of fossil plants and includes the reconstruction of both plants and their ecology from fossil evidence. Palaeobotany includes not only macrofossil plants but also microscopic plant material that may be included in palynology, the study of fossil spores and pollen and other organic-walled microfossils. In its broadest sense paleobotany includes the study of the fate of plant material from when a plant dies (biostratinomy), through transport and burial (taphonomy) to fossilization (diagenesis). As most fossil plants are fragmented and are found away from their original site of growth, the reconstruction of whole plants is of prime importance. Data on the biology of the plants, together with taphonomic data, can be used in the interpretation of their ecology. Other studies may include the use of plant fossils for palaeoclimatological analysis, for dating and correlation, for palaeoenvironmental analysis, for the study of palaeoatmospheres, paleobiogeography, and evolution. Recent palaeobotanical innovations have involved studies of plant–animal interactions to understand co-evolution; studies on fossil charcoal as evidence of ancient fires; studies on stomata on plant leaves as proxies for ancient CO2 levels; studies of isotopic and molecular structure of plant fossils, from the study of ancient DNA to the resistant biomacromolecules that allow the preservation of plants as fossils; and the contribution of fossil plants to kerogen formation and to the formation of fossil fuels—coal, oil, and gas.

Andrew C. Scott