A distinctive Eocene Asian monsoon and modern biodiversity resulted from the rise of eastern Tibet

He, Songlin; Ding, Lin; Xiong, Zhongyu; Spicer, Robert A.; Farnsworth, Alex; Valdes, Paul J.; Wang, Chao; Cai, Fulong; Wang, Houqi; Sun, Yong; Zeng, Deng; Xie, Jing; Yue, Yahui; Zhao, Chenyuan; Song, Peiping and Wu, Chen (2022). A distinctive Eocene Asian monsoon and modern biodiversity resulted from the rise of eastern Tibet. Science Bulletin (Early access).

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scib.2022.10.006


The uplift of eastern Tibet, Asian monsoon development and the evolution of globally significant Asian biodiversity are all linked, but in obscure ways. Sedimentology, geochronology, clumped isotope thermometry, and fossil leaf-derived numerical climate data from the Relu Basin, eastern Tibet, show at ∼50–45 Ma the basin was a hot (mean annual air temperature, MAAT, ∼27 °C) dry desert at low-elevation of 0.6 ± 0.6 km. Rapid basin rise to 2.0 ± 0.9 km at 45–42 Ma and to 2.9 ± 0.9 km at 42–40 Ma, with MAATs of ∼20 and ∼16 °C, respectively, accompanied seasonally varying increased annual precipitation to >1500 mm. From ∼39 to 34 Ma, the basin attained 3.5 ± 1.0 km, near its present-day elevation (∼3.7 km), and MAAT cooled to ∼6 °C. Numerically-modelled Asian monsoon strength increased significantly when this Eocene uplift of eastern Tibet was incorporated. The simulation/proxy congruence points to a distinctive Eocene Asian monsoon, quite unlike that seen today, in that it featured bimodal precipitation and a winter-wet regime, and this enhanced biodiversity modernisation across eastern Asia. The Paleogene biodiversity of Asia evolved under a continually modifying monsoon influence, with the modern Asian monsoon system being unique to the present and a product of a long gradual development in the context of an ever-changing Earth system.

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