Project: Integrated Leaf Trait Analysis – a new tool for analyzing Paleogene European ecosystems

The project will be conducted to combine modern approaches for analyzing functional leaf traits and insect damage on leaves for establishing a new meaningful tool for palaeoecological studies of Paleogene leaf assemblages. This new approach named Integrated Leaf Trait Analysis will be introduced to better characterize ecosystem structure and functioning of terrestrial ecosystems, especially those that lack data from animal fossils. Main project aim is the investigation how major environmental alterations, especially climate and floristic changes, impact on plant economics and trophic network in these palaeoecosystems. In particular it deals with the question how these changes influenced functional leaf traits and the interaction between plants and insect herbivores. To figure out and quantify shifts and changes of leaf traits and insect damage on leaves fossil leaf assemblages from distinct stratigraphic levels from the late Eocene to the late Oligocene (appr. 38 – 23 Ma before present), and from distinct habitats, i.e. the coastal plains of the Palaeo-North Sea and its volcanic-shaped hinterland are selected.

Duration: 2019 – 2022; Third-party funding: Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft

Project group: Lutz Kunzmann, Christian Müller (Section Palaeobotany), collaboration partners: Tao Su (XTBG, Yunnan, P.R. China), Torsten Wappler (State Museum of Hesse Darmstadt, Germany)

Key publications:

Kunzmann, L., Moraweck, K., Müller, C., Schröder, I., Wappler, T., Grein, M., Roth-Nebelsick, A. (2019): A Paleogene leaf flora (Profen, Sachsen-Anhalt, Germany) and its potentials for palaeoecological and palaeoclimate reconstructions. – Flora 254: 71–87. []

International collaborative project: Towards an Integrated Analysis of the Early Cretaceous Crato Fossil Lagerstätte (Ceará, Brazil)

Based on a Memorandum of Understanding between the Universidade Federal do Ceará, Fortaleza (Brazil) and the Senckenberg Society for Nature Research Frankfurt/M. (Germany) signed in 2016 the bilateral cooperation encompasses collaborative research, education of students and PhD students, as well as knowledge transfer for collection management and exhibitions. Within the Crato Fossil Lagerstätte research project, reconstruction of palaeovegetation, paleoclimate and palaeoenvironment are the main goals. The Konservat lagerstätte is a unique windowinto the Earth’s history in equatorial Gondwana about 115 million years ago. There, an ancient vegetation consting of early flowering plants, diverse gnetaleans and extinct gymnosperms was growing under hot, semiarid climate. Plant fossils are partly 3-dimensionally preserved as entire plants. Original plant tissue is replaces by iron oxide minerals but their cell structures are still intact.

Duration: 2019 – 2020; Third-party funding: DAAD (Germany) and CAPES (Brazil)

Project group: Lutz Kunzmann (Section Palaeobotany Dresden), Daniel Rodriguez do Nascimento Jr. Und Wellington Ferreira da Silva Filho (UFC Fortaleza, Brazil), Roberto Iannuzzi (UFRGS, Porto Alegre, Brazil), Dieter Uhl (Section Palaeoclimate research and Environment, Frankfurt/M.)

Key publikations:

Seyfullah, L. J., Roberts, E. A., Schmidt, A. R., Ragazzi, E., Anderson, K. B., do Nascimento Jr., D. R., da Silva Filho, W. F., Kunzmann, L. (in press). Revealing the diversity of amber source plants from the Early Cretaceous Crato Formation, Brazil. – BMC Evol. Biol.

Closest project: Ecophysiological signals of plant fossils as indicators of climatic and atmospheric change during the Paleogene

In this project the cooperation partner team studied the response of vegetation to Paleogene climate development. The Paleogene (about 66 – 23 million years B.P.) was a time of extraordinarily strong climatic and environmental changes. During this period, the Earth´s climate experienced a major global cooling and shifting from more or less icefree greenhouse conditions during the Paleocene/Eocene towards substantial glaciation of Antarctica during the Oligocene. These environmental changes should be clearly visible in distinct adaptation of land plants, i. e. in changes of various morphological leaf traits and corresponding adaptations of leaf functions. To detect and study these changes, we will measure, collect and analyse responsive leaf traits of fossil leaves stored in museum collections covering the whole Paleogene. Additionally, isotope data which provide information on ecophysiological parameters of plants will be obtained. The data will then be thoroughly analysed statistically to detect changes of ecophysiological parameters and/or correlations between parameters through time. Data from the considered material will also allow for calculating gas and heat exchange of the various taxa. The expected results will substantially contribute to our knowledge on climate-biosphere interactions. Furthermore, we intend to establish and intensify cooperation between the applying institutions with respect to collection-based research on long-term impact of environmental change on plant ecophysiology. The project increased visibility of collection-based research and aimed fostering further networking structures towards future expansions of the suggested initiative.

Duration: 2013 – 2017; Third-party funding:

Key publikations:

Roth-Nebelsick, A., Grein, M., Traiser, C., Moraweck, K., Kunzmann, L., Kovar-Eder, J., Kvaček, J., Stiller, S., Neinhuis, C. (2017): Functional leaf traits and leaf economics in the Paleogene — A case study for Central Europe. – Palaeogeogr., Palaeoclimat., Palaeoecol. 472: 1-14.

Moraweck, K., Grein, M., Konrad, W., Kovar-Eder, J., Kvaček, J., Neinhuis, C., Roth-Nebelsick, A., Traiser, C., Kunzmann, L. (2019): Leaf traits of long-ranging Paleogene species and their relationship with depositional facies, climate and atmospheric CO2 level. Palaeontographica B 298 (4-6): 93-172. []

Research focus: Evolution and diversity of conifers in Earth’s history

Based on our taxonomic expertise on fossil conifers we collaborate with other groups for investigating palaeo-diversity and palaeoecology of conifers. Taxa from the Paleogene of Europa are a focal point, e.g., inclusions from the Eocene Baltic amber. In that respect, we cooperate with the group of Alexander Schmidt (Georg-August University Göttingen), Eva-Maria Sadowski (Museum of Natural History Berlin) and Leyla Seyfullah (Geozentrum University Vienna).

Key publikations:

Sadowski, E.-M., Schmidt, A. R., Seyfullah1, L. J., Kunzmann, L. (2017). Conifers of the ‘Baltic amber forest’ and their palaeoecological significance. – Stapfia 106: 1-73.

Noll, R., Kunzmann, L. (2020). Diversity in fossil Araucaria Juss.: new species from the Middle Jurassic Jaramillo Petrified Forests in Santa Cruz province, Argentina. – Palaeontographica B.

Project scheme: The Eocene amber variety Krantzit and its relation to the origin of lignite lagerstätten in central Germany and palaeoclimate change

The project will investigate the causal relationships between (1) the characteristics of the lignite depositional area (coastal swamp), (2) the origin of a middle Eocene lignite seam complex, (3) the petrology of the lignite, (4) the vegetation inside and outside the coastal swamp area and (5) palaeoclimate to explain, why under the given conditions a “deposit” of the rare amber variety Krantzit was formed. For the first time, this project allows a holistic reconstruction of a central German amber deposit that is neither genetically nor chemically linked to the Eocene Baltic amber. Historical and modern collections of amber species and varieties, especially Krantzit, of plant fossils and lignites will be analyzed in a new context and converted into a spatio-temporal geological-palaeoclimatic model for explaining the origin of this Eocene amber variety. This will significantly increase the scientific value of these collections and the visibility of collection-based research at the natural history museums involved. In contrast to all Eocene amber deposits examined so far, there is a unique situation at the Profen site that the “amber forest” (peat bog) and the deposit site of the amber (“Lagerstätte”) are accessible for investigations in a large area.

Project group: Lutz Kunzmann (Section Palaeobotany), Alexander Schmidt (Georg August University Göttingen), Leyla Seyfullah (Geozentrum University Vienna), Jochen Rascher (Geomontan GmbH, Freiberg/Saxony), Claudia Niemz (LAOP, Lauta), Gerda Standke (State Survey for Environment, Agriculture and Geology, Freiberg/Saxony.)