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A proto-monsoonal climate in the late Eocene of Southeast Asia: Evidence from a sedimentary record in central Myanmar

Abstract : The Burma Terrane has yielded some of the earliest pieces of evidence for monsoonal rainfall in the Bay of Bengal. However, Burmese ecosystems and their potential monsoonal imprint remain poorly studied. This study focuses on the late Eocene Yaw Formation (23° N) in central Myanmar, which was located near the equator (c. 5° N) during the Eocene. We quantitatively assessed the past vegetation, climate, and depositional environments with sporomorph diagrams, bioclimatic analysis, and sequence biostratigraphy. We calculated the palynological diversity and drew inferences with rarefaction analysis by comparing with four other middle to late Eocene tropical palynofloras. Palynological results highlight a high floristic diversity for the palynoflora throughout the section formed by six pollen zones characterized by different vegetation. They indicate that lowland evergreen forests and swamps dominated in the Eocene Burmese deltaic plains while terra firma areas were occupied by seasonal evergreen, seasonally dry, and deciduous forests. This vegetation pattern is typical to what is found around the Bay of Bengal today and supports a monsoon-like climate at the time of the Yaw Formation. Bioclimatic analysis further suggests that in the late Eocene, the Yaw Formation was more seasonal, drier, and cooler compared to modern-day climate at similar near-equatorial latitude. More seasonal and drier conditions can be explained by a well-marked seasonal migration of the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ), driver of proto-monsoonal rainfall. Cooler temperatures in the late Eocene of central Myanmar may be due to the lack of adequate modern analogues for the Eocene monsoonal climate, while those found at other three Eocene Asian paleobotanical sites (India and South China) may be caused by the effect of canopy evapotranspirational cooling. Our data suggest that paleoenvironmental change including two transgressive-regressive depositional sequences is controlled by global sea level change, which may be driven by climate change and tectonics. The high diversity of the Yaw Formation palynoflora, despite well-marked seasonality, is explained by its cross-roads location for plant dispersals between India and Asia.
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Submitted on : Wednesday, August 31, 2022 - 9:24:46 AM
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Huasheng Huang, Robert J Morley, Alexis Licht, Guillaume Dupont-Nivet, Daniel Pérez-Pinedo, et al.. A proto-monsoonal climate in the late Eocene of Southeast Asia: Evidence from a sedimentary record in central Myanmar. Geoscience Frontiers, Elsevier, 2023, 14 (1), pp.101457. ⟨10.1016/j.gsf.2022.101457⟩. ⟨insu-03765271⟩

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