The late Eocene rise of SE Tibet formed an Asian ‘Mediterranean’ climate

Zhao, Chenyuan; Xiong, Zhongyu; Farnsworth, Alex; Spicer, Robert A.; He, Songlin; Wang, Chao; Zeng, Deng; Cai, Fulong; Wang, Houqi; Tian, Xiaolong; Valdes, Paul J.; Lamu, Ciren; Xie, Jing; Yue, Yahui and Ding, Lin (2023). The late Eocene rise of SE Tibet formed an Asian ‘Mediterranean’ climate. Global and Planetary Change, 231, article no. 104313.



Southeastern (SE) Tibet forms the transition zone between the high interior Tibetan Plateau and the lowlands of southwest China. So understanding the elevation history of SE Tibet, a biodiversity hotspot, enlightens our understanding of the interactions between tectonics, monsoon dynamics and biodiversity. Here we reconstruct the uplift history of the Markam Basin, SE Tibet, during the middle−late Eocene based on U − Pb dating, plant fossil assemblages, and stable and clumped isotope analyses. Our results suggest that the floor of the Markam Basin was at an elevation of 2.6 ± 0.9 km between 42 Ma and 39 Ma, where the mean annual air temperature (MAAT) was 13.2 ± 2.4 °C. The basin then rose rapidly to 3.8 (+0.6/−0.8) km before 36 Ma. Integrated with existing paleoelevation data, we propose that the high plateau boundary (∼3.0 km) of SE Tibet formed during the late Eocene. Numerical climate modeling with realistic paleo-landscapes shows that with the rise of SE Tibet, a Mediterranean-like climate developed in the region characterized by bi-modal precipitation with two wet seasons in boreal spring and autumn. The high topographic relief of SE Tibet, coupled with this distinctive Mediterranean-like climate system, helped develop the high biodiversity of the Hengduan Mountains.

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