Research highlight

Evolution of plants influenced river shape

Nature Geoscience

August 22, 2011

The evolution of tree-like plants some 330 million years ago was associated with the first appearance of river floodplains with fixed channels, reports a paper published online in Nature Geoscience.

Neil Davies and Martin Gibling demonstrate that the first appearance of a specific type of river deposit in the rock record, which they call fixed-channel floodplains, occurred after the expansion of tree-like plants. They suggest that the more-complex and deep root systems of these plants, along with the woody debris they created, stabilized river banks and allowed for the development of deep channels and floodplains.

In an accompanying News & Views, Chris Paola writes, “Davies and Gibling have identified a new way in which the evolution of plants has influenced terrestrial rivers.”

doi: 10.1038/ngeo1237

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