The Paleoecology Group at the Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden (XTBG), Chinese Academy of Sciences, one of the most renowned Chinese botanical institutions in Ecology and Botany, focuses on the global change in deep time. Using both fossil and living plant materials, the group studies paleoenvironmental changes during the Cenozoic Era and their impacts on paleobiodiversity and paleoecology. Currently, we are working on the paleoenvironmental changes in southwestern China, with special attention to the eastern part of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. More than ten Neogene fossil sites in this region have been excavated, yielding thousands of well-preserved fossil plants. The following four topics are our main research themes:
1) Phylogeny and palaeobiogeography of plants. Our collections from the Hengduan Mountains and Yunnan-Guizhou Plateau consist of more than ten thousand fossil specimens with fine preservation. These fossils represent leaves, fruits (seeds), flowers, as well as wood, ranging from ferns, gymnosperms to angiosperms.
2) Paleoenvironmental reconstructions. Based on modern plants, we set up models for paleoenvironmental reconstructions. Using these models, fossil plants serve as proxies to quantitatively reconstruct paleoenvironments, including paleoclimate, paleovegetation, paleotopography, and paleoaltimetry.
3) Paleobiodiversity changes in response to paleoenvironmental changes. Based on fossil floras and representative plant taxa, we explore the biodiversity response to past environmental changes.
4) Paleo-CO2. Several living species with a continuous fossil record are sued to reconstruct the link between leaf micromorphological features (stomata density and index) and atmospheric CO2 concentration. The paleo-CO2 concentrations can then be reconstructed based on these relationships and cuticles of fossil plants.