SCIENCE CHINA Earth Sciences, Volume 63 , Issue 2 : 212-223(2020) https://doi.org/10.1007/s11430-019-9475-2

Pliocene flora and paleoenvironment of Zanda Basin, Tibet, China

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  • ReceivedMay 10, 2019
  • AcceptedAug 12, 2019
  • PublishedNov 7, 2019


Funded by

Strategic Priority Research Program of CAS(Grant,Nos.,XDA2007030102,XDB26000000,XDA20070203)





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).


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  • Figure 1

    Location of Zanda Xiangzi flora in the Zanda Basin. The specific location is indicated by the star symbol.

  • Figure 2

    Conditions of the Zanda Xiangzi flora fossil locality. (a) The environment of fossil locality, the outcrop is formed by terrace cut by a river, the arrow indicates the position of fossil layer; (b) fossil-bearing layers; (c) small-sized leaf fossils preserved in grey-whitish mudstone; (d) lithology, magnetostratigraphic histograms of Zanda Basin, and its correlations with the geomagnetic polarity time scale (GPTS). The leaf symbol indicates the approximate horizon of the Xiangzi flora.

  • Figure 3

    Taxa from Zanda Xiangzi flora: Nanophyll & Leptophyll. (a)–(c) Spiraea cf. myrtilloides; (d)–(e) Lonicera sp.1; (f) Spiraea sp.1; (g) Spiraea sp.2; (h) Caragana sp.1; (i) Caragana cf.versicolor; (j)–(l) Caragana cf.gerardiana; (m) Potentilla fruticosa; (n) Lonicera cf.spinosa.

  • Figure 4

    Taxa from Zanda Xiangzi flora: Microphyll. (a) (l) Hippophae sp.; (b) Cotoneaster sp.1; (c) Dictphyllum sp.1; (d) Rhododendron sp.1; (e) Salix sp.1; (f) Ceratostigma sp.; (g) Cotoneaster sp.2; (h) Dictphyllum sp.2; (i) Salix sp.3; (j) Rhododendron sp.2; (k) Salix sp.2; (m) Polygonum sp.; (n) Kobresia sp.; (o) Berberis sp.

  • Figure 5

    Vegetation types of western Qinghai-Tibet Plateau and Nearest Living Relatives (NLRs) of fossil taxa. (a) Plateau desert vegetation composed of Artemisia, Ephedra and etc. (Zanda); (b) valley dwarf forest-shrubs composed of Hippophae, Lonicera and Myricaria (Zanda); (c) Plateau shrubs composed of Caragana, Potentilla fruticosa, Berberis and etc. (Purang); (d) Plateau dark coniferous forest composed by Picea, Abies and etc. (Gyirong); (e) Spiraea myrtilloides; (f) Lonicera minutifolia; (g) Caragana gerardiana; (h) Lonicera spinosa; (i) Potentilla fruticosa; (j) Cotoneaster adpressus; (k) Berberis dictyophylla; (l) Hippophae rhamnoides; (m) Cotoneaster acuminatus; (n) Salix atopantha; (o) Rhododendron lepidotum; (p) Salix caesia; (q) Rhododendron hypenanthum; (r) Ceratostigma minus; (s) Polygonum aviculare; (t) Kobresia tibetica.

  • Figure 6

    Canonical correlation analysis (CCA) plots to show the Zanda Xiangzi flora in the Global378 leaf physiognomy datasets.

  • Table 1   Taxa list of Zanda Xiangzi flora (in order of APG IV system)


    Fossil taxa

    Nearest Living Relatives

    Proportion of specimens


    Kobresia sp.

    Kobresia tibetica



    Berberis sp.

    Berberis dictyophylla



    Caragana cf.gerardiana

    Caragana gerardiana


    Caragana cf.versicolor

    Caragana versicolor


    Caragana sp.




    Cotoneaster sp.1

    Cotoneaster acuminatus


    Cotoneaster sp.2

    Cotoneaster adpressus


    Potentilla fruticosa

    Potentilla fruticosa


    Spiraea cf. myrtilloides

    Spiraea myrtilloides


    Spiraea sp.1



    Spiraea sp.2




    Hippophae sp.

    Hippophae rhamnoides



    Salix sp.1



    Salix sp.2

    Salix caesia


    Salix sp.3

    Salix atopantha



    Polygonum sp.

    Polygonum aviculare



    Ceratostigma sp.

    Ceratostigma minus



    Rhododendron sp.1

    Rhododendron lepidotum


    Rhododendron sp.2

    Rhododendron hypenanthum



    Lonicera cf.spinosa

    Lonicera spinosa


    Lonicera sp.

    Lonicera minutifolia



    Dictphyllum sp.1


    Dictphyllum sp.2


  • Table 2   Reconstructed paleoclimate of Zanda Xiangzi flora comapare with modern climate of QTP


    Modern climate

    Reconstructed paleoclimate






    MAT (°C)






    MTWM (°C)






    MTCM (°C)






    GRS (month)


    MAP/GSP (mm)






    MMGSP (mm)






    MPWET (mm)





    MPDRY (mm)





    MPWAR (mm)





    X3.WET (mm)





    X3.DRY (mm)





    Altitude (m)





    Potential Vegetation



    Shrub-Dark coniferousforest


    coniferous forest

    Shrub-Dark coniferousforest

    MAT, Mean Annual Temperature; MTWM, Mean Temperature of Warmest Month; MTCM, Mean Temperature of Coldest Month; GRS, Growing Season; MAP, Mean Annual Precipitation; GSP, Growing Season Precipitation; MMGSP, Monthly Mean Precipitation of Growing Season; MPWET, Mean Precipitation of Wettest Month; MPDRY, Mean Precipitation of Driest Month; MPWAR, Mean Precipitation of Warmest Month; X3.WET, Mean Precipitation of Wettest 3 Months; X3.DRY, Mean Precipitation of Driest 3 Months


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