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Fungus, not comet or catastrophe, accounts for carbonaceous spherules in the Younger Dryas “impact layer” : ORIGIN OF CARBONACEOUS SPHERULES

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      Fire in the Earth system.

      Fire is a worldwide phenomenon that appears in the geological record soon after the appearance of terrestrial plants. Fire influences global ecosystem patterns and processes, including vegetation distribution and structure, the carbon cycle, and climate. Although humans and fire have always coexisted, our capacity to manage fire remains imperfect and may become more difficult in the future as climate change alters fire regimes. This risk is difficult to assess, however, because fires are still poorly represented in global models. Here, we discuss some of the most important issues involved in developing a better understanding of the role of fire in the Earth system.
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        Evidence for an extraterrestrial impact 12,900 years ago that contributed to the megafaunal extinctions and the Younger Dryas cooling.

        A carbon-rich black layer, dating to approximately 12.9 ka, has been previously identified at approximately 50 Clovis-age sites across North America and appears contemporaneous with the abrupt onset of Younger Dryas (YD) cooling. The in situ bones of extinct Pleistocene megafauna, along with Clovis tool assemblages, occur below this black layer but not within or above it. Causes for the extinctions, YD cooling, and termination of Clovis culture have long been controversial. In this paper, we provide evidence for an extraterrestrial (ET) impact event at approximately equal 12.9 ka, which we hypothesize caused abrupt environmental changes that contributed to YD cooling, major ecological reorganization, broad-scale extinctions, and rapid human behavioral shifts at the end of the Clovis Period. Clovis-age sites in North American are overlain by a thin, discrete layer with varying peak abundances of (i) magnetic grains with iridium, (ii) magnetic microspherules, (iii) charcoal, (iv) soot, (v) carbon spherules, (vi) glass-like carbon containing nanodiamonds, and (vii) fullerenes with ET helium, all of which are evidence for an ET impact and associated biomass burning at approximately 12.9 ka. This layer also extends throughout at least 15 Carolina Bays, which are unique, elliptical depressions, oriented to the northwest across the Atlantic Coastal Plain. We propose that one or more large, low-density ET objects exploded over northern North America, partially destabilizing the Laurentide Ice Sheet and triggering YD cooling. The shock wave, thermal pulse, and event-related environmental effects (e.g., extensive biomass burning and food limitations) contributed to end-Pleistocene megafaunal extinctions and adaptive shifts among PaleoAmericans in North America.
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          Wildfire responses to abrupt climate change in North America.

          It is widely accepted, based on data from the last few decades and on model simulations, that anthropogenic climate change will cause increased fire activity. However, less attention has been paid to the relationship between abrupt climate changes and heightened fire activity in the paleorecord. We use 35 charcoal and pollen records to assess how fire regimes in North America changed during the last glacial-interglacial transition (15 to 10 ka), a time of large and rapid climate changes. We also test the hypothesis that a comet impact initiated continental-scale wildfires at 12.9 ka; the data do not support this idea, nor are continent-wide fires indicated at any time during deglaciation. There are, however, clear links between large climate changes and fire activity. Biomass burning gradually increased from the glacial period to the beginning of the Younger Dryas. Although there are changes in biomass burning during the Younger Dryas, there is no systematic trend. There is a further increase in biomass burning after the Younger Dryas. Intervals of rapid climate change at 13.9, 13.2, and 11.7 ka are marked by large increases in fire activity. The timing of changes in fire is not coincident with changes in human population density or the timing of the extinction of the megafauna. Although these factors could have contributed to fire-regime changes at individual sites or at specific times, the charcoal data indicate an important role for climate, and particularly rapid climate change, in determining broad-scale levels of fire activity.
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            Author and article information

            Journal
            Geophysical Research Letters
            Geophys. Res. Lett.
            American Geophysical Union (AGU)
            00948276
            July 2010
            July 20 2010
            : 37
            : 14
            : n/a
            10.1029/2010GL043345
            © 2010

            http://doi.wiley.com/10.1002/tdm_license_1.1

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