New research shows that the Meteor that hit the Earth 66 million years ago that was roughly 15 kilometers (9 miles) and wiped out the Dinosaurs also burnt North America’s forests and plants leading to a major re-composition of forests.
The study reported Sept. 16 in the journal PLOS Biology and funded by a Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory graduate research fellowship, the National Science Foundation and the Geological Society of America, suggests that before the meteor hit the earth, forests comprises of evergreen plants such as oak, holly and cycads. The meteor hit proved to be a boon for the fast growing-deciduous plants.
Benjamin Blonder, lead author of the study and an ecologist at the University of Arizona in Tucson said, “When you look at forests around the world today, you don’t see many forests dominated by evergreen flowering plants.”
“Instead, they are dominated by deciduous species, plants that lose their leaves at some point during the year,” he added.
Fossil records show that the dinosaur-era bloomed with angiosperms- flowering plants, grasses and trees, excluding conifers like spruce and pine before the meteorite crashed into Earth.
Blonder compared the type of plants depending on the duration in which they shed their leaves as investing in stocks (deciduous) versus bonds (evergreen). The Deciduous shed their leaves seasonally but the evergreen never dropped leaves the whole year.
“There’s a major strategy shift in terms of plants economics between the Cretaceous and the Paleogene,” added Blonder, referring to the geologic period when the extinction took place.
The collision impacted Chicxulub, Mexico which left behind a 180-kilometer (110-mile) crater, released 420 zettajoules of energy — 100 teratonnes of TNT and led to a period of prolonged cold weather known as an “impact winter.
The researchers hunt through 7,000 prehistoric plant’s leaves collected in the mid-1990s in southern North Dakota known as the Wyoming’s Hell Creek and Fort Union formations.
The samples, which span 2.2 million years, resides at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.
“This study provides an example of how the Earth has responded to immediate and catastrophic climate change in the past,” said Blonder, “and provides a comparison or baseline for contextualizing future change.”