Christopher K. West

Christopher K. West
Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology

PhD

About

36
Publications
8,957
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274
Citations
Citations since 2016
34 Research Items
271 Citations
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Introduction
My research interests include using the plant fossil record to reconstruct Late Cretaceous, Paleogene, and early Neogene environments. I am also interested in systematic and taxonomic description, with a focus on fossil floras from the Arctic and western Canada.

Publications

Publications (36)
Preprint
Full-text available
Earth's hydrological cycle is expected to intensify in response to global warming , with a 'wet-gets-wetter, dry-gets-drier' response anticipated. The subtrop-ics (~15-30°N/S) are predicted to become drier, yet proxy evidence from past warm climates suggests these regions may be characterised by wetter conditions. Here we use an integrated data-mod...
Article
The early Eocene Okanagan Highland fossil sites of Washington (USA) and British Columbia (Canada) contain exquisitely preserved plant and insect fossils that showcase a critical time and place in the evolution of the Northern Hemisphere temperate deciduous biome. A comprehensive understanding of the dynamics of fossil deposition and preservation at...
Article
Full-text available
Palm leaf fossils are common from Late Cretaceous floras in the United States, but Late Cretaceous Canadian palm records are limited largely to Nanaimo Group strata of British Columbia, with only anecdotal records from east of the Rocky Mountains. Here we report Late Cretaceous leaf fossils from Alberta and Saskatchewan, Canada. Segment angles with...
Article
Full-text available
During the late Paleocene to early Eocene, clas-tic fluvial sediments and coals were deposited in northern high latitudes as part of the Marga-ret Forma tion at Stenkul Fiord (Ellesmere Island, Nunavut, Canada). Syn-sedimentary tectonic movements of the Eurekan deformation continuously affected these terrestrial sediments. Different volcanic ash la...
Article
Full-text available
During the late Paleocene to early Eocene, clastic fluvial sediments and coals were deposited in northern high latitudes as part of the Marga­ret Formation at Stenkul Fiord (Ellesmere Island, Nunavut, Canada). Syn-sedimentary tectonic movements of the Eurekan deformation continu­ously affected these terrestrial sediments. Different volcanic ash lay...
Preprint
During the Cretaceous, large herbivorous dinosaurs (megaherbivores) acted as keystone species—just as large mammals do today (e.g., elephants)—yet despite their significance in Cretaceous ecosystems, what plant taxa these dinosaurs ate is unclear. The Albian armoured dinosaur Borealopelta markmitchelli (Ornithischia; Nodosauridae) was discovered in...
Article
The Ravenscrag Butte flora in southwestern Saskatchewan, Canada, provides a record of an early Paleocene (Danian) forest ecosystem that followed the K-Pg boundary event. Plant macrofossil collections were investigated to assess the paleoclimate and paleoecology of the forest. An ensemble approach to climate analysis using leaf physiognomic and near...
Article
Full-text available
The upper Paleocene to lower Eocene Margaret Formation exposed at Stenkul Fiord on southern Ellesmere Island, Nunavut, Canada, represents a nearly continuous terrestrial succession of microfossil rich clastic sediments and coal. These strata were deposited at a time of extensive tectonic activity associated with Eurekan deformation. The precise chr...
Article
Full-text available
Despite early interest in Neogene floras, primarily Miocene sites associated with Mio-Pliocene volcanic deposits of the Interior Plateau of British Columbia, few systematic accounts of the Miocene macrofloras of British Columbia – or elsewhere in non-Arctic Canada – have been published since the pioneering studies of J.W. Dawson and his contemporar...
Article
Full-text available
Early Eocene climates were globally warm, with ice-free conditions at both poles. Early Eocene polar landmasses supported extensive forest ecosystems of a primarily temperate biota but also with abundant thermophilic elements, such as crocodilians, and mesothermic taxodioid conifers and angiosperms. The globally warm early Eocene was punctuated by...
Article
Plant wax n-alkanes are valuable paleoclimate proxies because their carbon (δ¹³C) and hydrogen (δ²H) isotopes track biological and environmental processes. Angiosperms produce higher concentrations of n-alkanes than conifers, with some exceptions. Vegetation source is significant because in similar climates, both taxa produce n-alkanes with unique...
Preprint
Full-text available
Abstract. Early Eocene climates were globally warm, with ice-free conditions at both poles. Early Eocene polar landmasses supported extensive forest ecosystems of a primarily temperate biota, but also with abundant thermophilic elements such as crocodilians, and mesothermic taxodioid conifers and angiosperms. The globally warm early Eocene was punc...
Article
Leaf carbon isotope fractionation (Δleaf) is sensitive to environmental conditions and can provide insights into the state and evolution of leaf gas-exchange in response to climate and environment factors. In modern plants, water availability is the strongest environmental predictor of Δleaf across sites that experience relatively uniform and low c...
Article
The late Paleocene to early Eocene sediments of Ellesmere and Axel Heiberg islands, Nunavut, of the Canadian High Arctic contain a rich fossil flora and fauna. Although the megafloral fossils have been known for more than a century, limited descriptions of the fossil flora have been presented. Here, we provide a comprehensive morphotype catalogue o...
Presentation
Understanding the causal mechanisms of the modern latitudinal diversity gradient (LDG) is a long-established problem in ecology. Temperature has been proposed as the primary driver of the modern LDG, although other hypotheses (e.g. precipitation, insolation, seasonality, biogeographical history, and biological interactions), have been suggested as...
Poster
High latitude climates and biota responded profoundly to early Paleogene warming events but evidence for these changes has mostly been found in the marine record. Microfossil reconstructions of terrestrial vegetation with higher stratigraphic resolution are restricted to marine cores east of Greenland and on the Lomonosov Ridge, and measured sectio...
Poster
The climate of the early Eocene has been reconstructed using palaeontological proxies and is characterized as globally warm with ice-free conditions prevailing at both poles. Early Eocene Arctic landmasses supported extensive forest ecosystems of primarily temperate biota, but also included thermophilic elements such as crocodilians and mesothermic...
Article
Full-text available
The McAbee Fossil Beds, in south-central British Columbia, Canada, provide a record of forest ecosystems within a volcanically-active, upland landscape during the Early Eocene Climatic Optimum (EECO). To assess plant community ecology and climate within this environment, palynology and census-style macrofossil collections were investigated from two...
Article
Full-text available
The lower Eocene McAbee fossil beds (~53 Ma), in south-central British Columbia, Canada, represent a lacustrine sequence deposited during a time of pervasive regional volcanism. Previous studies on fossil assemblages at the McAbee fossil beds consist of amalgamated collections of mainly plants and insects from several disjunct and stratigraphically...
Article
Full-text available
Fossil palms provide qualitative evidence of (sub-) tropical conditions and frost-free winters in the geological past, including modern cold climate regions (e.g., boreal, or polar climates). The freeze intolerance of palms varies across different organs and life stages, with seedlings in particular less tolerant of sub-zero temperatures than adult...
Presentation
Full-text available
The early Eocene McAbee fossil beds in southern British Columbia host a diverse upland megaflora of predominately warm-temperate vegetation. Fossils occur within lacustrine shales interbedded with volcanic ash dated at 52.9 ± 0.83 Ma, coinciding with recent estimates of the onset of the Early Eocene Climatic Optimum (EECO). Prior work at McAbee ama...
Presentation
Full-text available
Fossil palms (Arecaceae) are used as evidence of past climates that were tropical or 'frost-free', owing to palm richness in the modern tropics and low diversity under temperate climates, and absence from areas with sustained freezing. Palm temperature limitations are due to their growth form-a single apical bud-and the lack of anatomical features...
Poster
Full-text available
High latitudes responded profoundly to early Paleogene warming events, but much of the data for these changes are from the marine record. Stenkul Fiord on Ellesmere Island offers a nearly continuous lithostratigraphic section of high-latitude fossil-rich late Paleocene–early Eocene aged rocks of the Margaret Formation. These sediments were deposite...
Article
Palms (Arecaceae) are iconic plant fossils, providing evidence of warm climates in the geological past in geographical areas that today support temperate, boreal or even polar climates. Fossil palm leaves are well known from Paleocene sites in the U.S.A., including Montana, Washington, and Alaska. Palm megafossils are unknown, however, from the Can...
Article
Full-text available
Early Eocene fossil floras from British Columbia are a rich resource for reconstructing western North American early Cenozoic climate. The best known of these floras reflect cooler (MAT ≤ 15 °C) upland forest communities in contrast to coeval (MAT ≥ 18 °C) forests in lowland western North American sites. Of particular interest is whether Early Eoce...
Article
The early Eocene was the warmest interval of the Cenozoic, and included within it were several hyperthermal events, with the Paleocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM) the most pronounced of these. These globally warm climates extended into the Arctic and substantive paleobotanical evidence for high Arctic precipitation (MAP >150cm/yr) is indicative o...
Presentation
The early Paleogene experienced significant climate warming, with the occurrence of 3 major hyperthermal events during the late Paleocene to early Eocene (PETM/ETM1, ETM2, and EECO). These rapid warming events have been associated with the release of massive amounts of CO2 and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and were coupled with orbital...

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Projects

Projects (5)
Project
The aim of this project is to review the evolution of terrestrial paleoclimate and leaf physiognomy across the Cenozoic using a data set comprising ~200 previously collected fossil leaf assemblages. The physical environment (light regime, potential for moisture loss, and freezing potential) determines leaf phenotypes. Although not all leaf phenotypic parameters are universal, characteristics such as leaf size and margin architecture, adhere to general trends in, for example, temperature and precipitation.
Project
To reconstruct climates and terrestrial plant ecosystems of Paleocene to Eocene age, with a focus on western and Arctic Canada. We use both palynology (spores & pollen) and macroflora (leaves & reproductive structures) and apply methods such as leaf physiognomy, nearest living relatives and geochemistry to reconstruct climate, and the paleoecology of these Middle to High Latitude ancient forests that occurred during the warmest conditions of the past 66 million years. Funded by successive grants to D. Greenwood from NSERC, Canada Foundation for Innovation, and an Explorer Grant from The National Geographic Society (2015-2016; J Eberle & SB Archibald co-PIs).
Project
To describe new fossil species of ferns from the Eocene macrofloras of British Columbia and the Canadian Arctic. We will also revise identifications of Eocene ferns described in the 1890s and early 20th century by JW & GM Dawson, Penhallow and others.