Journal cover Journal topic
Biogeosciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
© Author(s) 2017. This work is distributed
under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Research article
18 Apr 2017
Review status
This discussion paper is under review for the journal Biogeosciences (BG).
Improving global paleogeography since the late Paleozoic using paleobiology
Wenchao Cao1, Sabin Zahirovic1, Nicolas Flament1,a, Simon Williams1, Jan Golonka2, and R. Dietmar Müller1 1EarthByte Group, School of Geosciences, The University of Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia
2Faculty of Geology, Geophysics and Environmental Protection, AGH University of Science and Technology, Mickiewicza 30, 30-059 Kraków, Poland
acurrent address: School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Wollongong, Northfields Avenue, Wollongong, New South Wales 2522, Australia
Abstract. Paleogeographic reconstructions are important to understand Earth's tectonic evolution, past eustatic and regional sea level change, hydrocarbon genesis, and to constrain and interpret the dynamic topography predicted by time-dependent global mantle convection models. Several global paleogeographic maps have been compiled and published but they are generally presented as static maps with varying temporal resolution and fixed spatial resolution. Existing global paleogeographic maps are also tied to a particular plate motion model, making it difficult to link them to alternative digital plate tectonic reconstructions. To address this limitation, we developed a workflow to reverse-engineer global paleogeographic maps to their present-day coordinates and enable them to be linked to any tectonic reconstruction. Published paleogeographic compilations are also tied to fixed input datasets. We used fossil data from the Paleobiology Database to identify inconsistencies between fossils paleo-environments and published paleogeographic maps, and to improve the location of inferred terrestrial-marine boundaries by resolving these inconsistencies. As a result, the overall consistency ratio between the paleogeography and fossil collections was improved from 76.9 % to 96.1 %. We estimated the surface areas of global paleogeographic features (shallow marine environments, landmasses, mountains and ice sheets), and reconstructed the global continental flooding history since the late Paleozoic based on the amended paleogeographies. Finally, we discuss the relationships between emerged land area and total continental crust area through time, continental growth models, and strontium isotope (87Sr/86Sr) signatures in ocean water. Our study highlights the flexibility of digital paleogeographic models linked to state-of-the-art plate tectonic reconstructions in order to better understand the interplay of continental growth and eustasy, with wider implications for understanding Earth's paleotopography, ocean circulation, and the role of mantle convection in shaping long-wavelength topography.

Citation: Cao, W., Zahirovic, S., Flament, N., Williams, S., Golonka, J., and Müller, R. D.: Improving global paleogeography since the late Paleozoic using paleobiology, Biogeosciences Discuss., doi:10.5194/bg-2017-94, in review, 2017.
Wenchao Cao et al.
Wenchao Cao et al.
Wenchao Cao et al.


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Short summary
We present a workflow to link paleogeographic maps to alternative plate tectonic models, alleviating the problem that published global paleogeographic maps are generally presented as static maps and tied to a particular plate model. We further develop an approach to improve paleogeography using paleobiology. The resulting paleogeographies are consistent with proxies of eustatic sea level change since ~400 myr ago. We make the digital global paleogeographic maps available as an open resource.
We present a workflow to link paleogeographic maps to alternative plate tectonic models,...