Myers and his co-researchers reported the findings in Paleobiology, "Estimating Soil pCO2 Using Paleosol Carbonates: Implications for the Relationship Between Primary Productivity and Faunal Richness in Ancient Terrestrial Ecosystems," available at http://bit.ly/WISh4y. Myers discusses the research in a video at http://bit.ly/UROD8e.
Co-authors were SMU sedimentary geochemist Neil J. Tabor and paleontologists Louis L. Jacobs, SMU, and Octvio Mateus, New University of Lisbon, Portugal.
"Devising new and creative methods to understand how Earth and life have functioned together in the past is the foundation for predicting the future of life on our planet," said Jacobs, a vertebrate paleontologist and professor in SMU's Roy M. Huffington Department of Earth Sciences. "It is the only approach that provides a long enough perspective of what is possible."
New method applied to old hypothesis confirms regional variability
Typically researchers count the number of animal species discovered in a region to determine how many different types of animals once lived there. Scientists call that a measure of faunal richness.
Myers took a different approach. Using a traditional method typically used to estimate carbon dioxide in the ancient atmosphere, Myers instead applied it to estimate the amount of CO2 in ancient soils.
Measurements were taken from nodules of calcite that form in soil as a result of wet and dry seasons. These nodules take on the isotopic signature of the CO2 gas around them, which is a mixture derived from two sources: the atmosphere, which leaves a more positive isotopic signature, and plants decaying in the soil, which leave a more negative isotopic signature.
A higher volume of CO
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Southern Methodist University