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The early Miocene paleolake Manuherikia: vegetation heterogeneity and warm-temperate to subtropical climate in southern New Zealand

Abstract

The Manuherikia Group in southern New Zealand represents terrestrial sediments associated with a large paleolake, Lake Manuherikia, formed during a period of basin subsidence in the early Miocene, ca. 18.7–15.1 Ma. Micro- and macrofloral assemblages collected throughout the Manuherikia Group were studied to derive terrestrial climate proxies, relying on leaf physiognomy (CLAMP) and taxonomic affinity (bioclimatic analysis). The assemblages were also analyzed for the component loading of the relative abundances of different leaf morphotypes and the results were interpreted in light of stratigraphic and lateral ecological variation. Independent paleoclimate proxies from a variety of depositional environments consistently indicate warm-temperate to marginally subtropical mean annual temperatures (16.5–20 °C) and high annual precipitation (1,500–2,500 mm) during the Burdigalian–Langhian of mid-latitude New Zealand. Leaf physiognomy reveals an amplified seasonal contrast in both precipitation and temperature, possibly caused by seasonal shifts in the position of the subtropical high-pressure cells and westerly wind belts, causing overcast wet winters and dry summers. Regional and local vegetation variation was most likely caused by fluctuations in lake levels, which in turn may have been affected by enhanced seasonality from short-term climate oscillations.

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Acknowledgments

Landowners Becs Calder, the Calder family and Lyle Grey are acknowledged for allowing us to do fieldwork on their land. Jon Lindqvist, Barry Douglas and Mike Pole are gratefully acknowledged for the establishment of the Kawarau River collections and sampling of the Vinegar Hill and Kawarau River sections. James Stewart, Christine McLachlan, Alice Hodgkinson, Genevieve Coffey, Benjamin Moorhouse, Jess Hillman, Josh Marden, David and Wyn Jones and the members of the Dunedin Botanical Society are acknowledged for their help in creating collections for Grey Lake and Shale Creek. We thank two anonymous reviewers and the editors for their helpful suggestions and constructive comments on the manuscript. Funding for this research was provided by a Royal Society of New Zealand Marsden grant.

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Correspondence to Tammo Reichgelt.

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Reichgelt, T., Kennedy, E.M., Conran, J.G. et al. The early Miocene paleolake Manuherikia: vegetation heterogeneity and warm-temperate to subtropical climate in southern New Zealand. J Paleolimnol 53, 349–365 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10933-015-9827-5

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10933-015-9827-5

Keywords

  • Paleoenvironment
  • Mid-latitudes
  • Floral proxies
  • Southern hemisphere
  • Subtropical