Palynological evidence for late Miocene stepwise aridification on the northeastern Tibetan Plateau
Abstract. Holding a climatically and geologically key position both regionally and globally, the northeastern Tibetan Plateau provides a natural laboratory for illustrating the interactions between tectonic activity and the evolution of the Asian interior aridification. Determining when and how the late Miocene climate evolved on the northeastern Tibetan Plateau may help us better understand the relationships among tectonic uplift, global cooling and ecosystem evolution. Previous paleoenvironmental research has focused on the western Longzhong Basin. Late Miocene aridification data derived from pollen now require corroborative evidence from the eastern Longzhong Basin. Here, we present a late Miocene pollen record from the Tianshui Basin in the eastern Longzhong Basin. Our results show that a general trend toward dry climate was superimposed by stepwise aridification: a temperate forest with a rather humid climate existed in the basin between 11.4 and 10.1 Ma, followed by a temperate open forest environment with a less humid climate between 10.1 and 7.4 Ma, then giving way to an open temperate forest–steppe environment with a relatively arid climate between 7.4 and 6.4 Ma. The vegetation succession demonstrates that the aridification of the Asian interior occurred after ∼ 7–8 Ma, which is confirmed by other evidence from Asia. Furthermore, the aridification trend on the northeastern Tibetan Plateau parallels the global cooling of the late Miocene; the stepwise vegetation succession is consistent with the major uplift of the northeastern Tibetan Plateau during this time. These integrated environmental proxies indicate that the long-term global cooling and the Tibetan Plateau uplift caused the late Miocene aridification of the Asian interior.