One of the biggest natural disasters of the history of planet earth may have been responsible for the creation of the largest tropical forest in the world. When we think of the meteor that extinguished the dinosaurs, we always highlight the his impact on wildlife, but we forget that the entire ecosystem, including plants, was influenced and that is precisely what may have originated in the Amazon.
A survey carried out in Panama with samples of plant material collected in Colombia shows that the vegetation of South America has undergone a drastic change since the world was hit by asteroid. In reality, the event may have given rise to the tropical vegetation we know today.
The team at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute revealed in the study that not only a large part of the animals were extinct with the catastrophic event, but the plants and trees as well. In addition to the fire caused by the impact, the world still suffered from the lack of sunlight because of the soot layer that was formed. With little sun much of the plant kingdom cannot survive.
Experts believe that the devastating event was responsible for wiping out about 45% of the plant species that existed at the time. Of course, 6 million years have passed and most of the vegetation has returned, but the dominance of the species that survived continued to prevail in many places.
But what does the meteor and the end of the dinosaurs have with the Amazon?
Basically, after the impact of the meteor and the end of the dinosaurs, angiosperms (flowering plants) became dominant in the region that today is the Amazon. The current dense formation of vegetation prevents part of the sun's rays from reaching the ground, concentrating the light on the treetops. This type of strategy may have been advantageous after the world had run out of sunlight.
Another point is that the impact of the giant animals, which destroyed trees and paved the way, may have prevented the formation of such closed environments. In addition, one of the theories of the researchers is that when the ashes dropped the soil became rich in tropics that favored the appearance of flowers and flowering plants.
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"The lesson learned here is that in rapid shocks ... tropical ecosystems not only recover, they are replaced and the process takes a long time," said Mónica Carvalho, co-author of the study. "Our team examined more than 50 fossil pollen records and more than 6 leaf fossils before and after impact," he added.
The researchers point out that these theories may have all occurred at the same time and that there are still many mysteries about the impact of the meteor that destroyed the dinosaurs in the rainforests of the time, including the Amazon.
With with the BBC