High potential for weathering and climate effects of non-vascular vegetation in the Late Ordovician

Porada, P.; Lenton, T. M.; Pohl, A.; Weber, B.; Mander, L.; Donnadieu, Y.; Beer, C.; Pöschl, U. and Kleidon, A. (2016). High potential for weathering and climate effects of non-vascular vegetation in the Late Ordovician. Nature Communications, 7, article no. 12113.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/ncomms12113

Abstract

It has been hypothesized that predecessors of today’s bryophytes significantly increased global chemical weathering in the Late Ordovician, thus reducing atmospheric CO2 concentration and contributing to climate cooling and an interval of glaciations. Studies that try to quantify the enhancement of weathering by non-vascular vegetation, however, are usually limited to small areas and low numbers of species, which hampers extrapolating to the global scale and to past climatic conditions. Here we present a spatially explicit modelling approach to simulate global weathering by non-vascular vegetation in the Late Ordovician. We estimate a potential global weathering flux of 2.8 (km3 rock) yr−1, defined here as volume of primary minerals affected by chemical transformation. This is around three times larger than today’s global chemical weathering flux. Moreover, we find that simulated weathering is highly sensitive to atmospheric CO2 concentration. This implies a strong negative feedback between weathering by non-vascular vegetation and Ordovician climate.

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