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University of Washington professor's lifetime efforts receive international recognition
Date:7/26/2010

nces around the globe. China, for instance, is rich with a heritage of art showing a love of nature, but the ethic is colliding with population growth, poverty and politics, she says.

Leopold's research concerns climate and plant species change during the last 50 million years. At sites where sediments and ash from volcanic eruptions have fossilized plant material in the soils, Leopold looks for ancient grains of pollen and spores for clues of what used to grow where. Pollen grains, she discovered, can be present even if leaves and other plant materials have decayed.

At the fossil beds in Colorado, for instance, pollen provides evidence for a far greater variety of plants than revealed by the leaves alone. At a site near Hanford in eastern Washington, no plant material other than pollen has been preserved. There, in soil cores dating back 5 million years, pollens provide evidence that cypress-type swamps were once present. Like those in southern Florida today, the kinds of plants present would have needed almost tropical temperatures and 40 inches of water a year. Today Hanford receives less than 7 inches of rain.

"Ancient floras were richer than we have at Hanford today and climate change wiped them out," Leopold says. "If there's a lesson from that today, it would be that it's a shame to be losing more species at the hand of man."


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Contact: Sandra Hines
shines@uw.edu
206-543-2580
University of Washington
Source:Eurekalert  

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