Robert A. Spicer

Robert A. Spicer
The Open University (UK) · Department of Environment, Earth and Ecosystems

PhD

About

264
Publications
82,280
Reads
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11,611
Citations
Introduction
My research focuses on developing terrestrial palaeoclimate proxies based on multivariate statistical analysis of leaf architecture, the best known of which is CLAMP (Climate Leaf Analysis Multivariate Program - CLAMP- http://clamp.ibcas.ac.cn), the evolution of Arctic vegetation and climate, the uplift history of Tibet and the development of the Asian monsoon. For more information see http://science-people.open.ac.uk/r.a.spicer
Additional affiliations
April 2022 - April 2024
Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research Chinese Academy of Sciences
Position
  • Adjunct Professor
Description
  • Paleoaltimetry, Paleobotany, and Paleoclimatology
January 2018 - present
Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden
Position
  • Senior Visiting Scholar
Description
  • Palaeoclimate and palaeoelevation reconstructions of the Tibet and surrounding regions.
January 2010 - present
Chinese Academy of Sciences
Description
  • Senior International Visiting Professorship
Education
November 1975 - November 1978
United States Geological Survey
Field of study
  • Geology
September 1972 - October 1975
Imperial College London
Field of study
  • Geology
October 1969 - June 1972
Imperial College London
Field of study
  • Botany

Publications

Publications (264)
Article
Geographical names and the entities they represent act as a fundamental cornerstone across numerous disciplines. However, inconsistent geographical names and arbitrarily defined regional geographical scales are common, hindering cross-disciplinary communication and synthesis. The Pan-Tibetan Highlands, comprising the Tibetan Plateau, Himalaya, Heng...
Article
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Spinescence is an important functional trait possessed by many plant species for physical defence against mammalian herbivores. The development of spinescence must have been closely associated with both biotic and abiotic factors in the geological past, but knowledge of spinescence evolution suffers from a dearth of fossil records, with most studie...
Article
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Biodiversity hotspots are key regions for understanding the evolutionary history of biodiversity as well as the processes initiating and maintaining it [...]
Article
Quantifying the interactions between topography, climate and plant diversity within one of the world's biodiversity hotspots, the southeastern margin of the Tibetan Plateau, remains elusive due to few reliable quantitative paleoelevation reconstructions, precise geological age constraints and well-preserved plant fossils. The Lühe Basin, on the sou...
Article
Cupressaceae fossil tree stumps from the early Oligocene Lühe coal mine in southwestern China contain abundant quartz-petrified damage traces. The wood fossils were assigned to Taxodioxylon (very similar to extant Taxodium) based on wood anatomy analysis. Within the woods, three types of arthropods- and one fungus-mediated ichnofossils LHIF 1–4 (Lü...
Article
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Extant Bauhinia (Leguminosae) is a genus of 300 species of trees, shrubs, and lianas, widely distributed in pantropical areas, but its diversification history in southeastern Asia, one of its centers of highest diversity, remains unclear. We report new fossils of three Bauhinia species with cuticular preservation from the Paleogene of Puyang Basin,...
Article
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Reconstructing the Paleogene topography and climate of central Tibet informs understanding of collisional tectonic mechanisms and their links to climate and biodiversity. Radiometric dates of volcanic/sedimentary rocks and paleotemperatures based on clumped isotopes within ancient soil carbonate nodules from the Lunpola Basin, part of an east-west...
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The rapid Cretaceous diversification of flowering plants remains Darwin’s ‘abominable mystery’ despite numerous fossil flowers discovered in recent years. Wildfires were frequent in the Cretaceous and many such early flower fossils are represented by charcoalified fragments, lacking complete delicate structures and surface textures, making their si...
Article
Plants and insects are essential components of terrestrial ecosystems and insect herbivory is the most important type of biotic interaction in these ecosystems alongside the role of insects as pollinators. Insect damaged fossil leaves are the only direct sources of documenting the historical effect of folivorous arthropods on once living foliar tis...
Article
Ten palm leaf impressions are documented from the latest Maastrichtian (late Cretaceous) to early Danian (earliest Paleocene) sediments (K-Pg, c. 66–64 Ma) of the Mandla Lobe of the Deccan Inter-trappean Beds, Madhya Pradesh, central India. The palmate leaf shape along with a definite well-preserved costa support their placement in the subfamily Co...
Article
Plant–insect interactions in the fossil record are, as yet, sparsely known and understudied. Here, we document evidence of a new type of insect skeletonization on Abroma augustum (L.) L. f. (Malvaceae) leaf remains from the latest Neogene (Pliocene) sediments of Chotanagpur plateau, Jharkhand, eastern India. This unique skeletonization feeding trac...
Preprint
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During the late Eocene to the early Oligocene, marine records document a globally congruent record of declining carbon dioxide concentrations, Antarctic icesheet growth, and associated reorganisation of the global climate system. In contrast, the few existing terrestrial records demonstrate high heterogeneity of environmental change and are difficu...
Preprint
Indian Cenozoic deposits contain well-preserved diverse angiosperm leaf assemblages, but galling, a common form of angiosperm leaf damage in modern tropical forests, has not been well-documented. Here we report insect herbivory on diverse angiosperm fossil leaf specimens from Pliocene (Rajdanda Formation) sediments of the Chotanagpur Plateau, easte...
Article
Indian Cenozoic deposits contain well-preserved diverse angiosperm leaf assemblages, but galling, a common form of angiosperm leaf damage in modern tropical forests, has not been well-documented. Here we report insect herbivory on diverse angiosperm fossil leaf specimens from Pliocene (Rajdanda Formation) sediments of the Chotanagpur Plateau, easte...
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Evidence of predatory marks on fossil leaf remains provides a unique window into ecological and evolutionary associations of the past, but finding both damage and the phytophagous insects causing that damage pattern in the same fossil specimen is a very rare phenomenon. Normally, caterpillars have little fossilization potential because of their del...
Article
We report for the first time well-preserved leaflets of Hylodesmum palaeoglutinosum from the latest Neogene sediments (Rajdanda Formation: Pliocene) of Jharkhand, eastern India. Macromorphological features show that the fossil leaflet remains are identical to those of modern endemic taxon H. glutinosum (Muhl. ex Wild.) Ohashi & Mill (tribe: Desmodi...
Article
Premise: Microclimatic differences between the periphery and the interior of tree crowns result in a variety of adaptive leaf macromorphological and anatomical features. Our research was designed to reveal criteria for sun/shade leaf identification in two species of evergreen oaks, applicable to both modern and fossil leaves. We compared our resul...
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Mountain ecosystems support a significant one-third of all terrestrial biodiversity, but our understanding of the spatiotemporal maintenance of this high biodiversity remains poor, or at best controversial. The Himalaya hosts a complex mountain ecosystem with high topographic and climatic heterogeneity and harbors one of the world's richest floras....
Article
The sedimentary basins of Yunnan, Southwest China, record detailed histories of Cenozoic paleoenvironmental change. They track regional tectonic and palaeobiological evolution, both of which are critically important for the development of modern floral diversity in southwestern China and throughout Asia more generally. However, to be useful, the se...
Article
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Quantifying how land surface height, such as that of the Tibetan region, has changed with time is crucial for understanding a range of Earth processes, including atmospheric dynamics, biotic evolution and tectonics. Elevation reconstructions are highly uncertain and controversial, in part because of assumptions used in their calculation. The larges...
Preprint
Full-text available
Background: Flowering plants (angiosperms) dominate most global ecosystems today, but their rapid Cretaceous diversification has remained poorly understood ever since Darwin referred to it as an ‘abominable mystery’. Although numerous Cretaceous fossil flowers have been discovered in recent years, most are represented by incomplete charcoalified fr...
Article
While a recent molecular phylogeographical study shows that, Cladrastis, a small woody genus in the bean family (Leguminosae), may have been established in Asia after the middle to late Eocene, fossils of the genus have not been previously documented in the Paleogene of Asia. Here we report an infructescence and four fossil fruits of Cladrastis fro...
Article
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During the Mid-Miocene Climatic Optimum [MMCO, ~14 to 17 million years (Ma) ago], global temperatures were similar to predicted temperatures for the coming century. Limited megathermal paleoclimatic and fossil data are known from this period, despite its potential as an analog for future climate conditions. Here, we report a rich middle Miocene rai...
Article
The Hengduan Mountains region (HMR) on southeastern Tibetan Plateau, supports a high diversity of herbs, particularly in its subalpine to alpine ecosystems due to high altitude and cool temperate climate. Current understandings on the formation of such herbaceous richness is based chiefly on molecular phylogenies, while direct geological evidence i...
Article
Albizia, a diverse tree genus, occupies monsoonal warm, humid rain forests in tropical and subtropical regions. We recovered a well-preserved compound fossil leaf and two fossil fruits of Albizia (Fabaceae) from the latest Neogene (Rajdanda Formation: Pliocene) sediments of Jharkhand of Chotanagpur Plateau, eastern India. On the basis of the archit...
Article
After India separated from Gondwana, its 9000 km northward voyage from the Southern Hemisphere to its modern position joined with Eurasia took 160 million years. During that journey, India experienced a range of climatic conditions due to secular climate variations and its changing latitudinal position. Documenting India's climate during its trans-...
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The West Kunlun region forms the northern margin of the Tibetan Plateau, and sedimentation in this region contributed to plateau formation and its northwards expansion, as well as the development of central Asian aridification. However, the stratigraphic dating framework in this region has been ambiguous, hampering the understanding of both tectoni...
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The growth of the Tibetan Plateau throughout the past 66 million years has profoundly affected the Asian climate, but how this unparalleled orogenesis might have driven vegetation and plant diversity changes in eastern Asia is poorly understood. We approach this question by integrating modeling results and fossil data. We show that growth of north...
Article
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Tibet’s ancient topography and its role in climatic and biotic evo- lution remain speculative due to a paucity of quantitative surface- height measurements through time and space, and sparse fossil records. However, newly discovered fossils from a present eleva- tion of ∼4,850 m in central Tibet improve substantially our knowl- edge of the ancient...
Article
We describe fossil plant assemblages from the late Maastrichtian Kakanaut Formation of the Koryak Upland, North-East of Russia, which represent a high (75oN) palaeolatitude flora. The flora contains about 40 species, including liverworts, horsetails, ferns, cycadophytes, ginkgos, conifers and angiosperms. Angiosperms and conifers predominate and, u...
Article
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Dipterocarpaceae, a tropical plant family that forms a major component of low-lying rainforests in Southeast Asia, is represented by a large number of fossils from the Cenozoic sedimentary successions of India, but the origin and antiquity of this family has been actively debated. The earliest reliable dipterocarp megafossils so far reported in Ind...
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The Tibetan Plateau was built through a succession of Gondwanan terranes colliding with Asia during the Mesozoic. These accretions produced a complex Paleogene topography of several predominantly east-west trending mountain ranges separated by deep valleys. Despite this piecemeal assembly and resultant complex relief, Tibet has traditionally been t...
Article
The relationship between plant form and climate has been recognised for more than two millennia, and the idea that fossils can indicate climate change was first recorded almost a thousand years ago. Here we review ways of using plant form to reconstruct, quantitatively, past climates, focussing on techniques that have been developed over the past c...
Article
Our understanding regarding the onset and development of the modern South Asia monsoon (SAM) is still incomplete due to its complex nature and differing views about its relationship with major orographic features such as the Himalaya and Tibetan Plateau. Climate data derived from some terrestrial and marine sediments from the Neogene suggests the o...
Article
Here we study a well-preserved petrified palm stem from the latest Maastrichtian (Late Cretaceous) to earliest Danian (early Paleocene) sediments (c. 66-65 Ma old) of the Deccan Intertrappean Beds of Madhya Pradesh, Central India. We infer its systematic relationships and relevance to palm evolution. The significant anatomical attributes of the fos...
Article
Silicified fossil legume woods of Cynometroxylon Chowdhury & Ghosh collected from the Neogene (late Miocene) sediments of the Bengal Basin, eastern India, exhibit fungal decay seldom found in the fossil record. The wood possesses numerous perforate areas on the surface that seem to be the result of extensive fungal activity. In transverse section,...
Article
Silicified fossil legume woods of Cynometroxylon Chowdhury & Ghosh collected from the Neogene (late Miocene) sediments of the Bengal Basin, eastern India, exhibit fungal decay seldom found in the fossil record. The wood possesses numerous perforate areas on the surface that seem to be the result of extensive fungal activity. In transverse section,...
Article
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Views differ on the uplift history of the SE Tibetan Plateau and causal geodynamic mechanisms, yet reliable age-constrained paleoaltimetry in this region could test growth models of the entire plateau. Here we apply carbonate clumped isotope thermometry to well-dated carbonate paleosols and marls in the Gonjo Basin, SE Tibet, to reveal the topograp...
Article
The early Oligocene represents the beginning of the modern icehouse world. To better understand how vegetation and climate changed during this period, we reconstruct quantitively the early Oligocene vegetation and climate by analyzing fossil spore and pollen assemblages from Lühe basin, Yunnan Province, in southwestern China. The reconstructed pale...
Article
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Understanding how alpine biotas formed in response to historical environmental change may improve our ability to predict and mitigate the threats to alpine species posed by global warming. In the world’s richest temperate alpine flora, that of the Tibet-Himalaya-Hengduan region, phylogenetic reconstructions of biome and geographic range evolution sh...
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Mechanisms driving the tectonic evolution of the southeast (SE) margin of Tibet include the Paleogene extrusion of the coherent Indochina lithospheric block and the continuous deformation caused by lower crustal flow since the middle Miocene. The timing and style of regional deformations are keys to determining the role of each mechanism. Fault‐bou...
Article
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In situ preservation of fossil insect damage in plant fossils is an excellent tool to study the coevolution of flora and fauna through geological time, but finding both damage and the insect causing that damage in the same specimen is a very rare phenomenon. Galling is a common form of angiosperm leaf damage, which can be regarded as a kind of exte...
Article
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The biodiversity of the Himalaya, Hengduan Mountains and Tibet, here collectively termed the Tibetan Region, is exceptional in a global context. To contextualize and understand the origins of this biotic richness, and its conservation value, we examine recent fossil finds and review progress in understanding the orogeny of the Tibetan Region. We ex...
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The often-used phrase ‘the uplift of the Tibetan Plateau’ implies a flat-surfaced Tibet rose as a coherent entity, and that uplift was driven entirely by the collision and northward movement of India. Here, we argue that these are misconceptions derived in large part from simplistic geodynamic and climate modeling, as well as proxy misinterpretatio...
Article
The Paleogene environment of today's semi-arid and arid Central Asia is poorly quantified and knowledge of the paleoelevation of northern Tibet remains elusive, yet both are crucially important for understanding inter-relationships between growth of the Tibetan Plateau and Asian monsoon development. Here, we apply the Climate-Leaf Analysis Multivar...
Article
A fossil leaf assemblage from latest Neogene (Pliocene) sediments exposed in Jharkhand of Chotonagpur Plateau, eastern India, is subjected to a CLAMP (Climate Leaf Analysis Multivariate Program) analysis using a new high spatial resolution (~1 km2) WorldClim2 gridded climate data and PhysgAsia2 calibration. The CLAMP analysis of 80 different morpho...
Article
Premise: Apocynaceae is common in the fossil record, especially as seed remains from the Neogene of Europe and North America, but rare in Asia. Intrafamilial assignment is difficult due to the lack of diagnostic characters, and new fossil and modern data are needed to understand the paleobiogeography of this group. Methods: We studied three Apoc...
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Intrinsic water use efficiency (iWUE), defined as the ratio of photosynthesis to stomatal conductance, is a key variable in plant physiology and ecology. Yet, how rising atmospheric CO2 concentration affects iWUE at broad species and ecosystem scales is poorly understood. In a field-based study of 244 woody angiosperm species across eight biomes ov...
Article
Molecular phylogeneticists often find that a diversification of western Chinese plant taxa took place in the Miocene and link this to the Neogene uplift of the Tibetan Plateau. This link is made despite abundant geological evidence showing that a high but topographically complex Tibet already existed in the Paleogene. To evaluate and constrain mole...
Article
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• Understanding the relationship between field-measured operating stomatal conductance (gop) and the theoretical maximum stomatal conductance (gmax, calculated from stomatal density and geometry), provides an important framework which can be used to infer leaf-level gas exchange of historical, herbarium and fossil plant material. To date, however,...