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The general characteristics of global vegetation during the middle Pliocene warm period can be reconstructed from fossil pollen and plant megafossil data. The largest differences between Pliocene vegetation and that of today occurred at high latitudes in both hemispheres, where warming was pronounced relative to today. In the Northern Hemisphere coniferous forests lived in the modern tundra and polar desert regions, whereas in the Southern Hemisphere southern beech apparently grew in coastal areas of Antarctica. Pliocene middle latitude vegetation differed less, although moister-than-modern conditions supported forest and woodland growth in some regions now covered by steppe or grassland. Pliocene tropical vegetation reflects essentially modern conditions in some regions and slightly cooler-than-or warmer-than- modern climates in other areas. Changes in topography induced by tectonics may be responsible for many of the climatic changes since the Pliocene in both middle and lower latitudes. However, the overall latitudinal progression of climatic conditions on land parallels that seen in the reconstruction of middle Pliocene sea-surface temperatures. Pliocene paleovegetational data was employed to construct a 2????2?? global grid of estimated mid-Pliocene vegetational cover for use as boundary conditions for numerical General Circulation Model simulations of middle Pliocene climates. Continental outlines and topography were first modified to represent the Pliocene landscape on the 2????2?? grid. A modern 1????1?? vegetation grid was simplified and mapped on this Pliocene grid, and then modified following general geographic trends evident in the Pliocene paleovegetation data set.
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Middle Pliocene vegetation: Reconstructions, paleoclimatic inferences, and boundary conditions for climate modeling