Messinian vegetation and climate of the intermontane Florina-Ptolemais-Servia Basin, NW Greece inferred from palaeobotanical data: how well do plant fossils reflect past environments?R Soc Open Sci. 2020 May; 7(5):192067.RS
The late Miocene is marked by pronounced environmental changes and the appearance of strong temperature and precipitation seasonality. Although environmental heterogeneity is to be expected during this time, it is challenging to reconstruct palaeoenvironments using plant fossils. We investigated leaves and dispersed spores/pollen from 6.4 to 6 Ma strata in the intermontane Florina-Ptolemais-Servia Basin (FPS) of northwestern Greece. To assess how well plant fossils reflect the actual vegetation of the FPS, we assigned fossil taxa to biomes providing a measure for environmental heterogeneity. Additionally, the palynological assemblage was compared with pollen spectra from modern lake sediments to assess biases in spore/pollen representation in the pollen record. We found a close match of the Vegora assemblage with modern Fagus-Abies forests of Turkey. Using taxonomic affinities of leaf fossils, we further established close similarities of the Vegora assemblage with modern laurophyllous oak forests of Afghanistan. Finally, using information from sedimentary environment and taphonomy, we distinguished local and distantly growing vegetation types. We then subjected the plant assemblage of Vegora to different methods of climate reconstruction and discussed their potentials and limitations. Leaf and spore/pollen records allow accurate reconstructions of palaeoenvironments in the FPS, whereas extra-regional vegetation from coastal lowlands is probably not captured.