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Home / Preservation & Taphonomy / Wood Decay

Taphonomy in General
Plant Fossil Preservation and Plant Taphonomy
Collecting Bias: Our Incomplete Picture of the Past Vegetation
Pith Cast and "in situ" Preservation
Three-Dimensionally Preserved Plant Compression Fossils
Permineralized Plants and the Process of Permineralization
Petrified Forests
Bacterial Biofilms (Microbial Mats)
Molecular Palaeobotany
Pyrite Preservation
Upland and Hinterland Floras
Abscission and Tissue Separation in Fossil and Extant Plants
Log Jams and Driftwood Accumulations
Wound Response in Trees
Fungal Wood Decay: Evidence from the Fossil Record

! Fungi@
! Leaf Size and Shape and the Reconstruction of Past Climates@
! Overviews of Plant Fossil Lagerstätten and Their Palaeoenvironments@

Leaf Litter and Plant Debris

S. Ash (2010), Go to PDF page 127: Stop Stop Eight: Plant Debris Beds. PDF file, SEPM-NSF Workshop "Paleosols and Soil Surface Analog Systems", September 21-26, 2010, Petrified Forest National Park, AZ.

A. Bani et al. (2018): The role of microbial community in the decomposition of leaf litter and deadwood. In PDF, Applied Soil Ecology, 126: 75-84. See also here.

C.M. Belcher (2016): The influence of leaf morphology on litter flammability and its utility for interpreting palaeofire. In PDF, Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B, 371. See also here.

B. Berg and C. McClaugherty (2008): Plant Litter Decomposition, Humus Formation, Carbon Sequestration. Book announcement (second edition), with table of contents, including 13 chapter abstracts.

C. Blanco-Moreno et al. (2022): Quantitative plant taphonomy: the cosmopolitan Mesozoic fern Weichselia reticulata as a case study. Open access, Palaeontology, 65.
Note figure 7: Taphonomic model proposed for Weichselia reticulata.

R.J. Burnham (1997): Stand characteristics and leaf litter composition of a dry forest hectare in Santa Rosa National Park, Costa Rica. In PDF, Biotropica, 29: 384–395. See also here.

R.J. Burnham (1994): Patterns in tropical leaf litter and implications for angiosperm paleobotany. In PDF, Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology, 81: 99-113. See also here.

! R.J. Burnham (1993): Reconstructing Richness in the Plant Fossil Record. Abstract, Palaios, 8: 376-384.

! R.J. Burnham et al. (1992): The reflection of deciduous forest communities in leaf litter: implications for autochthonous litter assemblages from the fossil record. PDF file, Paleobiology, 18: 30-49.
See also here.
Note fig. 1: Three steps in the process of plant taphonomy.

! R.J. Burnham (1989): Relationships between standing vegetation and leaf litter in a paratropical forest: implications for paleobotany. Abstract, Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology, 58: 5-32. See also here (in PDF).

! A. Channing and D. Edwards (2013): Wetland megabias: Ecological and ecophysiological filtering dominates the fossil record of hot spring floras. In PDF, Palaeontology, 56: 523-556.

J.H.C. Cornelissen et al. (2017): Are litter decomposition and fire linked through plant species traits? In PDF, New Phytologist, 216: 653–669.

A.J. Crawford and C.M. Belcher (2014): Charcoal morphometry for paleoecological analysis: The effects of fuel type and transportation on morphological parameters. Open access, Applications in Plant Sciences, 2: 1400004. See also here (in PDF).

G.P. de Oliveira Martins et al. (2018): Are early plants significant as paleogeographic indicators of past coastlines? Insights from the taphonomy and sedimentology of a Devonian taphoflora of Paraná Basin, Brazil. In PDF, Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, 505: 234-242. See also here.

! D.L. Dilcher et al. (2009): A climatic and taxonomic comparison between leaf litter and standing vegetation from a Florida swamp woodland. Open access, American Journal of Botany, 96: 1108-1115.

W.A. DiMichele et al. (2015): Early Permian fossil floras from the red beds of Prehistoric Trackways National Monument, southern New Mexico. In PDF, New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science, Bulletin, 65: 129-139. See also here.
! Note fig. 3 and 4: Large mats of Walchia branches encased in claystones.

H. Drake and C.J. Burrows (1980): The influx of potential macrofossils into Lady Lake, north Westland, New Zealand. In PDF, New Zealand Journal of Botany, 18: 257-274.

S.L. Eggert et al. (2012): Storage and export of organic matter in a headwater stream: responses to long-term detrital manipulations. Free access, Ecosphere, 3: 1-25.
Note figure 1: Conceptual framework of predicted effects of reduction of leaf litter, small wood, and large wood.

D.K. Ferguson (2012): Plant taphonomy: 20 years of death, decay, and dissemules. Abstract, Palaios 27.

! D.K. Ferguson et al. (2009): The taphonomy of a remarkable leaf bed assemblage from the Late Oligocene-Early Miocene Gore Lignite Measures, southern New Zealand. PDF file, International Journal of Coal Geology. Provided by the Internet Archive´s Wayback Machine.

! David K. Ferguson (2005): Plant Taphonomy: Ruminations on the Past, the Present, and the Future. Abstract, Palaios, 20: 418-428. See also here (References).

D.K. Ferguson (1985): The origin of leaf-assemblages - new light on an old problem. Abstract.

L.E. Fiorelli et al. (2013): The oldest known communal latrines provide evidence of gregarism in Triassic megaherbivores. Sci Rep., 3.

K.M. Fritz et al. (2019): Coarse particulate organic matter dynamics in ephemeral tributaries of a Central Appalachian stream network. Free access, Ecosphere, 10: e02654. 10.1002/ecs2.2654.

! Robert A. Gastaldo, Department of Geology, Colby College, Waterville, Maine: Notes for a course in paleobotany. This website provides information about: Taphonomy: Physiological, Necrological, and Traumatic processes,
Taphonomy: Biogeochemical Processes of Plant Fossilization and Preservational Modes,
Biostratinomic Processes in Volcaniclastic Terrains,
Biostratinomic Processes in Fluvial-Lacustrine Terrains,
Biostratinomic Processes in Coastal-Deltaic Terrains,
Biostratinomic Processes in Peat Accumulating Environments, and
Biostratinomic Processes in Marginal Marine Settings. See also: A Brief Introduction to PALEOBOTANY.

R.A. Gastaldo (2012): Taphonomic Controls on the Distribution of Palynomorphs in Tidally-influenced Coastal Deltaic Settings. In PDF, Palaios, 27: 798-810.

Robert A. Gastaldo, Department of Geology, Colby College, Waterville, Maine: A Brief Introduction to TAPHONOMY. About: Gastaldo, Savrda, & Lewis. 1996. Deciphering Earth History: A Laboratory Manual with Internet Exercises. Contemporary Publishing Company of Raleigh, Inc. ISBN 0-89892-139-2.

! R.A. Gastaldo and J.R. Staub (1999): A mechanism to explain the preservation of leaf litter lenses in coals derived from raised mires. PDF file, Palaeogeography Palaeoclimatology Palaeoecology, 149: 1-14.

R.A. Gastaldo and A.-Y. Huc (1992): Sediment facies, depositional environments, and distribution of phytoclasts in the Recent Mahakam River delta, Kalimantan, Indonesia. PDF file, Palaios. Framboidal pyrite in fig. 8B, 9B.

! R.A. Gastaldo et al. (1987): Origin, characteristics, and provenance of plant macrodetritus in a Holocene crevasse splay, Mobile Delta, Alabama. PDF file, Palaios.

E.L. Gulbranson et al. (2020): When does large woody debris influence ancient rivers? Dendrochronology applications in the Permian and Triassic, Antarctica. Abstract, Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, 541.
See also here (in PDF).
Note figure 6C, D: In situ stumps.

! E.R. Hagen et al. (2019): No Large Bias within Species between the Reconstructed Areas of Complete and Fragmented Fossil Leaves. Abstract, Palaios, 34: 43-48. See also here (in PDF).
"... that the underrepresentation of large leaves, as captured by our study design, is probably not critical for most fossil applications. Comparing directly the reconstructed areas of complete and fragmented leaves appears reasonable, thus expanding the usefulness of fossil leaf fragments. ..."

! G.F. Hart (1986): Origin and Classification of Organic Matter in Clastic Systems. Abstract.

S.K. Hart et al. (2013): Riparian litter inputs to streams in the central Oregon Coast Range Freshwater Science, 32.
See also here (abstract).

! M. Iniesto et al. (2018): Plant Tissue Decay in Long-Term Experiments with Microbial Mats. Open access, Geosciences, 8.
"... Plants became trapped and progressively buried by the mat community that prevents fungal invasion, mechanical cracking, and inner tissue breakages ..."

! K. Kathiresan and B.L. Bingham (2001): Biology of mangroves and mangrove ecosystems. In PDF, Advances in marine biology, 40: 81-251.
See also here.
Please take notice: Chapter 7.1. "Litter decomposition and nutrient enrichment" starting on PDF page 76.

K.L. Kennedy et al. (2013): Lower Devonian coaly shales of northern New Brunswick, Canada: plant accumulations in the early stages of Terrestrial colonization. In PDF, Journal of Sedimentary Research, 83: 1202–1215. See also here.

! C.J. LeRoy (2019): Aquatic–terrestrial interactions: Mosaics of intermittency, interconnectivity and temporality. In PDF, Functional Ecology, 33: 1583–1585.
See also here.

R. Li et al. (2021): Litter decomposition was retarded by understory removal but was unaffected by thinning in a Chinese fir [Cunninghamia lanceolata (Lamb.) Hook] plantation. Abstract, Applied Soil Ecology. See also here (in PDF).

Note fig. 7: Typical Wessex Formation Plant debris bed.

N.P. Maslova et al. (2016): Phytopathology in fossil plants: New data, questions of classification. In PDF, Paleontological Journal, 50: 202–208.

C.L. Meier and W.D. Bowman (2008): Links between plant litter chemistry, species diversity, and below-ground ecosystem function. In PDF, PNAS, 105: 19780-19785.

J. Mora-Gómez et al. (2015): Limits of the biofilm concept and types of aquatic biofilms. Abstract, In: Romaní AM, Guasch H, Balaguer MD (eds) Aquatic biofilms: ecology, water quality and wastewater treatment. See also here (in PDF).

J. Mora-Gómez (2014): Leaf litter decomposition in Mediterranean streams: microbial processes and responses to drought under current global change scenario. In PDF, PhD Thesis, University of Girona. See also here.

G. Pienkowski et al. (2016): Fungal decomposition of terrestrial organic matter accelerated Early Jurassic climate warming. In PDF, Sci. Rep., 6. See also here.

Mike Pole, New Zealand:
The Amazing Miocene Fossil Leaf Pack of Mata Creek, New Zealand.

J.S. Powers et al. (2009): Decomposition in tropical forests: a pan-tropical study of the effects of litter type, litter placement and mesofaunal exclusion across a precipitation gradient. Journal of Ecology, 97: 801-811.

G.J. Retallack (2018): Leaf preservation in Eucalyptus woodland as a model for sclerophyll fossil floras. In PDF, Alcheringa: An Australasian Journal of Palaeontology, DOI: 10.1080/03115518.2018.1457180. See also here.

F. Ricardi-Branco et al. (2020): Actualistic Taphonomy of Plant Remains in Tropical Forests of Southeastern Brazil. Actualistic Taphonomy in South America, pp 111-138. See also here (in PDF).

F. Ricardi Branco et al. (2010): Accumulation of Bio Debris and Its Relation with the Underwater Environment in the Estuary of Itanhaém River, Sâo Paulo State. In PDF. See also here.

F. Ricardi-Branco et al. (2009): Plant Accumulations Along the Itanhaem River Basin, Southern Coast of Sao Paulo State, Brazil. PDF file, Palaios, 24: 416-424. See also here.

! M.H. Scheihing and H.W. Pfefferkorn (1984): The taphonomy of land plants in the orinoco delta: A model for the incorporation of plant parts in clastic sediments of late carboniferous age of euramerica. Abstract.

! M.W.I. Schmidt et al. (2011): Persistence of soil organic matter as an ecosystem property. In PDF, Nature, 478: 49–56.
See also here.
Note figure 3: A synopsis of all eight insights, contrasting historical and emerging views of soil carbon cycling.

! S.A. Schroeter et al. (2022): Microbial community functioning during plant litter decomposition. Free access, Sci. Rep., 12.
"... findings suggest that bacteria secrete a variety of natural antibiotics in an effort to compete against other bacteria or fungi within the decomposer community. Competitive pressure likely drives constant adaptation and optimization of decomposer community functioning.

M.W. Simas et al. (2013): An accurate record of volcanic ash fall deposition as characterized by dispersed organic matter in a lower Permian tonstein layer (Faxinal Coalfield, Paraná Basin, Brazil). In PDF, Geologica Acta, 11: 45-57.

! R.A. Spicer (1991): Plant taphonomic processes. PDF file, in: Allison, P.A., Briggs, D.E.G. (eds.), Taphonomy: Releasing the Data Locked in the Fossil Record. Plenum, New York, pp. 72-113.

! R.A. Spicer (1989): The formation and interpretation of plant fossil assemblages Advances in botanical research (Google books).

R.A. Spicer (1981): The sorting and deposition of allochthonous plant material in a modern environment at Silwood Lake, Silwood Park, Berkshire, England. See also here (in PDF).

! R.A. Spicer (1977): The pre-depositional formation of some leaf impressions. PDF file, Palaeontology, 20: 907–912.
This expired link is now available through the Internet Archive´s Wayback Machine.

D.C. Steart et al. (2006): Overland transport of leaves in two forest types in southern Victoria, Australia and its implications for palaeobotanical studies. In PDF, Proceedings of the Royal Society of Victoria, 118: 65-74.

S.C. Sweetman and A.N. Insole (2010): The plant debris beds of the Early Cretaceous (Barremian) Wessex Formation of the Isle of Wight, southern England: their genesis and palaeontological significance. Abstract, Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, 292: 409–424. see also here (in PDF).

B. Switek, Fossil Plant Debris Key to UK Dinosaur Preservation.

! A.M.F. Tomescu et al. (2016): Microbes and the fossil record: selected topics in paleomicrobiology. Abstract, in: Hurst C. (ed.) Their World: A Diversity of Microbial Environments. Advances in Environmental Microbiology, vol 1: 69-169. See also here (in PDF).

A. Toumoulin et al. (2020): Reconstructing leaf area from fragments: testing three methods using a fossil paleogene species. In PDF, American Journal of Botany, 107: 1786–1797. See also here.

S. Vivelo and J.M. Bhatnagar (2019): An evolutionary signal to fungal succession during plant litter decay. Open access, FEMS microbiology ecology, 95.

! C.H. Wellman and A.C. Ball (2021): Early land plant phytodebris. Free access, Geological Society, London, Special Publications, 511: 309-320.

Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:
Plant litter.

S.L. Wing (1984): Relation of paleovegetation to geometry and cyclicity of some fluvial carbonaceous deposits. PDF file, Journal of Sedimentary Research, 54: 52–66.
See also here.
"... lenticular bodies that truncate underlying mudstone layers. These are interpreted as having formed in abandoned sections of channels.
[...] Deposits of the second type are tabular, as much as 10 km in lateral extent, and rest conformably on other floodplain sediment. These units show a cyclic arrangement ..."

S. Zhou et al. (2020): Decomposition of leaf litter mixtures across biomes: The role of litter identity, diversity and soil fauna. Open access, Journal of Ecology. See also here (in PDF).

E.L. Zodrow and J.A. D'angelo (2013): Digital compression maps: an improved method for studying Carboniferous foliage. In PDF, Atlantic Geology, 49. See also here and there.
"... The image of any freed frond segment of compression foliage that has been reprocessed digitally to represent its original structure is called a compression map. ..."

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This index is compiled and maintained by Klaus-Peter Kelber, Würzburg,
Last updated March 09, 2022