Pollen and climate

Artwork #12 shows how the amounts of different fossil spores and pollen from Antarctic rock samples change through geological time with changing climate.

Each stacked graph is a spore or pollen type representing elements of temperate rain-forest vegetation including mosses, shrubs and trees. The samples were collected from Seymour Island so the plants would have been growing on the northeastern lowlands of the Antarctic Peninsula. The colour reflects warmer (pink) and cooler (blue) climatic phases, interpreted from the fossil and geochemical record in the rocks.


The data gets younger from left to right between ~70 and 65 million years ago, with the composition of the vegetation varying slightly with temperature. Close to the right of the picture, at ~ 66 million years ago (the white bar), a large asteroid hit Mexico wiping out the dinosaurs and many other creatures worldwide, including those roaming Antarctica. However, despite some short-lived instability, the rain-forest of the Antarctic Peninsula appeared to survive this catastrophic event.
This work shows how the biotic landscape at high latitudes has responded to environmental change in a much warmer world in the geological past. We look to the fossil record to provide insight into both gradual and potentially sudden biotic change in the Antarctic; a region highly sensitive to climate change.

Data source:
Dr. Vanessa Bowman
British Antarctic Survey,