Paper No. 4
Presentation Time: 8:50 AM
PALEO-ENM: A VALUABLE QUANTITATIVE TOOL FOR UNDERSTANDING THE COEVOLUTION OF THE EARTH AND LIFE
Ecological niche modeling (ENM) is a quantitative technique used to predict species’ abiotic requirements. It is a correlative method, requiring geographic information from species occurrences and the suite of environmental conditions experienced at each occurrence point. The output of these models is a set of environmental suitability rules that can be projected geographically and to different time periods to test biogeographic, ecologic, and evolutionary hypotheses. Thus, ENM is a powerful tool for understanding how a dynamic Earth environment impacts biogeographic and macroevolutionary patterns. Although developed by biologists and used extensively with modern taxa, EMN is also an effective tool for fossil analyses (PaleoENM). PaleoENM differs from ENM in the modern primarily in the process of constructing environmental layers across the study area. With analyses of modern taxa, these environmental layers can be obtained from large public databases (e.g., WorldClim). For PaleoENM, however, environmental conditions must be interpreted from the sedimentary and geochemical records and interpolated across the study area using a Geographic Information System (GIS). This presentation describes the contextual framework and important considerations for appropriate application of ENM to the fossil record and outlines best practices for reconstruction of paleoenvironmental layers. Example PaleoENM analyses of species from the Ordovician of the Cincinnati Region, the Devonian of the Appalachian basin, the Cretaceous of the Gulf Coast, and the Miocene of the Great Plains are discussed with the goal of expanding PaleoENM use to a broader range of paleontological studies.