Distribution of Major Vegetational Types During the Tertiary

  1. E.T. Sundquist and
  2. W.S. Broecker
  1. Jack A. Wolfe

Published Online: 18 MAR 2013

DOI: 10.1029/GM032p0357

The Carbon Cycle and Atmospheric CO2: Natural Variations Archean to Present

The Carbon Cycle and Atmospheric CO2: Natural Variations Archean to Present

How to Cite

Wolfe, J. A. (1985) Distribution of Major Vegetational Types During the Tertiary, in The Carbon Cycle and Atmospheric CO2: Natural Variations Archean to Present (eds E.T. Sundquist and W.S. Broecker), American Geophysical Union, Washington, D. C.. doi: 10.1029/GM032p0357

Author Information

  1. U.S. Geological Survey, Denver, Colorado 80225

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 18 MAR 2013
  2. Published Print: 1 JAN 1985

ISBN Information

Print ISBN: 9780875900605

Online ISBN: 9781118664322



  • Carbon cycle (Biogeochemistry)—Congresses;
  • Atmospheric carbon dioxide—Congresses;
  • Geological time—Congresses;
  • Paleothermometry—Congresses;
  • Geology, Stratigraphic—Congresses


During the latest Paleocene-early Eocene (about 50–55 million years ago (Ma)), broad-leaved evergreen vegetation extended to latitude 70°–75°, and multistratal evergreen vegetation to 55°–60°. During cool intervals of the Eocene, broad-leaved evergreen forests were restricted to about 50°, with poleward areas occupied by densely stocked coniferous forest. Semideciduous tropical to paratropical forest occupied southeastern Asia and southeastern North America during the middle and late Eocene, replacing broad-leaved evergreen forests. Following the terminal Eocene event, dense conifferous forest occupied areas poleward of 50°–60°, and microthermal broad-leaved deciduous forest (unknown in the Eocene) occupied areas of the northern hemisphere south to 35°. Broad-leaved evergreen forests in both hemispheres were equatorward of 35°, and multistratal forests equatorward of 20°. In the southern hemisphere, areas between 35° and 50° were occupied by a mixed forest of conifers and broad-leaved evergreens. During the Neogene, broad-leaved evergreen vegetation slightly expanded (particularly during the mid-Miocene warm interval), as did coniferous forest at the expense of broad-leaved deciduous forest. Antarctica was deforested by the Miocene. Woodlands replaced forests in southwestern North America and the Mediterranean region during the Miocene. The rising Himalayas produced steppe vegetation in central Asia during the Miocene; in western North America, steppes developed during the Pliocene. Grasslands in central North America can be no older than late Miocene and may be of younger origin. Taiga is first present in the Arctic region at about 5 Ma north of 65°–70° and has continued to expand. Tundra is first recorded at about 2–3 Ma. Evidence of Tertiary desert is absent.