Miocene fire intensification linked to continuous aridification on the Tibetan Plateau

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© 2019 Geological Society of America. Although fire is considered an important factor in global vegetation evolution and climate change, few high-resolution Miocene fire records have been obtained worldwide. Here, two independent micro-charcoal-based fire records from the northern Tibetan Plateau were analyzed; both show similar trends in micro-charcoal concentrations through time, with low abundances in the warmer Middle Miocene Climate Optimum (18-14 Ma) followed by a continuous increase throughout the late Miocene (14-5 Ma) cooling. Our detailed statistical analyses show that the micro-charcoal concentration trend is highly positively correlated to the trend in oxygen isotopes (δ18O, r = 0.94) and xerophytic species (%Xero, r = 0.95). We propose that the intensified fire frequency on the Tibetan Plateau mainly originated from the forest-steppe ecotone as a result of the continuous aridification in winter driven by the global cooling and decreased atmospheric pCO2 that occurred during 18-5 Ma, with a secondary control by the tectonic activity of the northern Tibetan Plateau.

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