UCL Earth Sciences


Forests and frost? Antarctica in a 400ppm CO2 world: evidence from the rock record

1 March 2017

The MAPS Faculty Colloquium series is proud to present the talk by Prof Dame Jane Francis: The Antarctica continent has been located in its present position over the South Pole for the last 100 million years. The recent glacial landscape developed in a low CO2 world (<300ppm) but through most of this geological time Antarctica was covered with forest vegetation that survived in warm climates under high CO2 (>1000ppm?) despite its polar position. Fossil plants indicate that much of the Antarctic landscape was covered with forest vegetation of monkey puzzle trees, tree ferns, southern beech and other plants that are ancestors of the modern forests we see today in Patagonia and New Zealand. Even within this interval of polar warmth, at times CO2 levels may have dropped to about 400ppm, similar to today, with geological evidence for ice amongst the forests. Can reconstruction of Antarctic environments from the rock record help us understand the rapid changes that the current Antarctic landscape might soon see as it aligns with a 400ppm CO2 world?


Professor Jane Francis is the Director of British Antarctic Survey. She is a member of the NERC National Capability Partnership Forum, and is advised and supported at BAS by the Director of Science, the Director of Operations and the Director of Innovation and Impact. In 2017 she was appointed Dame Commander of the Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George (DCMG) in recognition of services to UK polar science and diplomacy.

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