Plant and insect herbivore community variation across the Paleocene–Eocene boundary in the Hanna Basin, southeastern Wyoming

PeerJ
University of Wyoming
By: , and 

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Abstract

Ecosystem function and stability are highly affected by internal and external stressors. Utilizing paleobotanical data gives insight into the evolutionary processes an ecosystem undergoes across long periods of time, allowing for a more complete understanding of how plant and insect herbivore communities are affected by ecosystem imbalance. To study how plant and insect herbivore communities change during times of disturbance, we quantified community turnover across the Paleocene­–Eocene boundary in the Hanna Basin, southeastern Wyoming. This particular location is unlike other nearby Laramide basins because it has an abundance of late Paleocene and Eocene coal and carbonaceous shales and paucity of well-developed paleosols, suggesting perpetually high water availability. We sampled approximately 800 semi-intact dicot leaves from five stratigraphic levels, one of which occurs late in the Paleocene–Eocene thermal maximum (PETM). Field collections were supplemented with specimens at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. Fossil leaves were classified into morphospecies and herbivore damage was documented for each leaf. We tested for changes in plant and insect herbivore damage diversity using rarefaction and community composition using non-metric multidimensional scaling ordinations. We also documented changes in depositional environment at each stratigraphic level to better contextualize the environment of the basin. Plant diversity was highest during the mid-late Paleocene and decreased into the Eocene, whereas damage diversity was highest at the sites with low plant diversity. Plant communities significantly changed during the late PETM and do not return to pre-PETM composition. Insect herbivore communities also changed during the PETM, but, unlike plant communities, rebound to their pre-PETM structure. These results suggest that insect herbivore communities responded more strongly to plant community composition than to the diversity of species present.

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Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Plant and insect herbivore community variation across the Paleocene–Eocene boundary in the Hanna Basin, southeastern Wyoming
Series title PeerJ
DOI 10.7717/peerj.7798
Issue 7
Year Published 2019
Language English
Publisher PeerJ, Inc
Contributing office(s) Geosciences and Environmental Change Science Center
Description e7798 27 p.
Country United States
State Wyoming
County Carbon
Other Geospatial Hanna Basin