Pliocene flora and paleoenvironment of Zanda Basin, Tibet, China

  • Jian Huang
  • Tao Su
  • Shufeng Li
  • Feixiang Wu
  • Tao Deng
  • Zhekun ZhouEmail author
Research Paper SPECIAL TOPIC: Cenozoic mammals and plants from Tibetan Plateau and their biogeographical significance


This paper describes a plant megafossil assemblage from the Pliocene strata of Xiangzi, Zanda Basin in the western Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. Twenty-one species belonging to 12 genera and 10 families were identified. Studies show that the Pliocene vegetation in Zanda Basin was mostly deciduous shrub composed of Cotoneaster, Spiraea, Caragana, Hippophae, Rhododendron, Potentilla fruticosa, etc. Leaf sizes of these taxa were generally small. Paleoclimate reconstruction using Coexistence Analysis and CLAMP showed that this area had higher temperature and precipitation in the Pliocene than today, and distinct seasonal precipitation variability was established. The reconstructed paleoelevation of Zanda Basin in the Pliocene was similar to modern times. In the context of central Asian aridification, the gradual drought in the area beginning in the late Cenozoic caused vegetation to transition from shrub to desert, and the flora composition also changed.


Qinghai-Tibet Plateau Cenozoic Pliocene Plant fossils Paleovegetation Paleoclimate Environmental change 


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We are grateful to the colleagues from the Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden (XTBG), Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, CAS and Kunming Institute of Botany, CAS, for their assistance with fossil collection. Public Technology Service Center, XTBG helped with imaging. This work was supported by the Strategic Priority Research Program of CAS (Grant Nos. XDA2007030102, XDB26000000, XDA20070203), the Second Tibetan Plateau Scientific Expedition and Research (STEP) (Grant No. 2019QZKK0705), the NSFC-NERC (the National Natural Science Foundation of China-Natural Environment Research Council of the United Kingdom) joint research program (Grant Nos. 41661134049, NE/P013805/1), the Youth Innovation Promotion Association, CAS (Grant No. 2017439) and the Key Research Program of Frontier Sciences, CAS (Grant No. QYZDB-SSW-SMC016).

Supplementary material


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Copyright information

© Science China Press and Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jian Huang
    • 1
    • 2
  • Tao Su
    • 1
    • 2
  • Shufeng Li
    • 1
    • 2
  • Feixiang Wu
    • 2
    • 4
    • 5
  • Tao Deng
    • 2
    • 4
    • 5
  • Zhekun Zhou
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    Email author
  1. 1.CAS Key Laboratory of Tropical Forest Ecology, Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical GardenChinese Academy of SciencesXishuangbannaChina
  2. 2.University of Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  3. 3.Kunming Institute of BotanyChinese Academy of SciencesKunmingChina
  4. 4.Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and PaleoanthropologyChinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  5. 5.Center for Excellence in Life and PaleoenvironmentChinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina

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