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   Location:Home > Research > Research Divisions > Key Laboratory of Tropical Forest Ecology
Palaeoecology Research Group
Author: Zhou Zhekun
Update time: 2016-12-08
Text Size: A A A

Head of the Group: Dr.SU Tao





Website: http://prg-en.groups.xtbg.ac.cn/introduction/

E-mail: sutao@xtbg.org.cn

Tel: 86 871-65178133



The Paleoecology Group at the Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden (XTBG), Chinese Academy of Sciences, one of the most renowned Chinese botanical institutions in Ecology and Botany, focuses on the global change in deep time. By using both fossil and living plant materials, the group studies paleoenvironmental changes during the Cenozoic Era and their impacts on paleobiodiversity and paleoecology. Currently, we are working on the paleoenvironmental changes in southwestern China, with special attention to the eastern part of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. More than ten Neogene fossil sites in this region have been excavated, yielding thousands of well-preserved fossil plants. The following four topics are our main research themes:

1) Phylogeny and palaeobiogeography of plants. Our collections from the Hengduan Mountains and Yunnan-Guizhou Plateau consist of more than five thousand fossil specimens with fine preservation. These fossils represent leaves, fruits (seeds), flowers, as well as wood, ranging from ferns, gymnosperms to angiosperms.

2) Paleoenvironmental reconstructions. Based on modern plants, we set up models for paleoenvironmental reconstructions. Using these models, fossil plants serve as proxies to quantitatively reconstruct paleoenvironments, including paleoclimate, paleovegetation, paleotopography, and paleoaltimetry.

3) Paleobiodiversity changes in response to paleoenvironmental changes. Based on fossil floras and representative plant taxa, we explore the biodiversity response to past environmental changes.

4) Paleo-CO2. Several living species with a continuous fossil record are sued to reconstruct the link between leaf micromorphological features (stomata density and index) and atmospheric CO2 concentration. The paleo-CO2 concentrations can then be reconstructed based on these relationships and cuticles of fossil plants.


Research Projects



Selected Publications



Zhu H, Huang YJ, Ji XP, Su T, Zhou ZK: Continuous existence of Zanthoxylum (Rutaceae) in Southwest China since the Miocene. Quaternary International 2016, 392:224-232.  

 Xu H, Su T, Zhang ST, Deng M, Zhou ZK: The first fossil record of ring-cupped oak (Quercus L. subgenus Cyclobalanopsis (Oersted) Schneider) in Tibet and its paleoenvironmental implications. Palaeogeography Palaeoclimatology Palaeoecology 2016, 442:61-71.  

 Xia K, Tan HY, Turkington R, Hu JJ, Zhou ZK: Desiccation and post-dispersal infestation of acorns of Quercus schottkyana, a dominant evergreen oak in SW China. Plant Ecology 2016, 217(11):1369-1378.  

  Sun M, Su T, Zhang SB, Li SF, Anberree-Lebreton J, Zhou ZK: Variations in Leaf Morphological Traits of Quercus guyavifolia (Fagaceae) were Mainly Influenced by Water and Ultraviolet Irradiation at High Elevations on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, China. Int J Agric Biol 2016, 18(2):266-273.  

  Su T, Huang YJ, Meng J, Zhang ST, Huang J, Zhou ZK: A Miocene leaf fossil record of Rosa (R-fortuita n. sp.) from its modern diversity center in SW China. Palaeoworld 2016, 25(1):104-115.  

  Lu J, Turkington R, Zhou ZK: The effects of litter quantity and quality on soil nutrients and litter invertebrates in the understory of two forests in southern China. Plant Ecology 2016, 217(11):1415-1428.  

  Liang XQ, Ferguson DK, Su T, Zhou ZK: Fossil leaves of Populus from the Middle Miocene of Yunnan, SW China. Journal of Systematics and Evolution 2016, 54(3):264-271.  

  Liang XQ, Ferguson DK, Jacques FMB, Su T, Wang L, Zhou ZK: A new Celastrus species from the middle Miocene of Yunnan, China and its palaeoclimatic and palaeobiogeographic implications. Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology 2016, 225:43-52.  

  Li SF, Jacques FMB, Spicer RA, Su T, Spicer TEV, Yang J, Zhou ZK: Artificial neural networks reveal a high-resolution climatic signal in leaf physiognomy. Palaeogeography Palaeoclimatology Palaeoecology 2016, 442:1-11.  

  Lebreton-Anberree J, Li SH, Li SF, Spicer RA, Zhang ST, Su T, Deng CL, Zhou ZK: Lake geochemistry reveals marked environmental change in Southwest China during the Mid Miocene Climatic Optimum. Science Bulletin 2016, 61(11):897-910.  

  Huang J, Su T, Lebereton-Anberree J, Zhang ST, Zhou ZK: The oldest Mahonia (Berberidaceae) fossil from East Asia and its biogeographic implications. Journal of Plant Research 2016, 129(2):209-223.  

  Hu JJ, Luo CC, Turkington R, Zhou ZK: Effects of herbivores and litter on Lithocarpus hancei seed germination and seedling survival in the understorey of a high diversity forest in SW China. Plant Ecology 2016, 217(11):1429-1440.  





Li, Y.-J., Oskolski, A.A., Jacques, F.M.B., Zhou, Z.-K., 2015. New middle Miocene fossil wood of Wataria (Malvaceae) from Southwest China. IAWA Journal 36, 345-357.

Lebreton Anberrée, J., Manchester, S.R., Huang, J., Li, S.F., Wang, Y.Q., Zhou, Z.K., 2015. First Fossil Fruits and Leaves of Burretiodendron sl (Malvaceae sl) in Southeast Asia: Implications for Taxonomy, Biogeography, and Paleoclimate. International Journal of Plant Sciences 176, 682-696.

Zhang, J.-W., Huang, J., D’Rozario, A., Adams, J.M., Zhou, Z.-K., 2015. Calocedrus shengxianensis, A late Miocene relative of C. macrolepis (Cupressaceae) from South China: implications for paleoclimate and evolution of the genus. Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology 222.

Wang, Y.Q., Momohara, A., Wang, L., Lebreton-Anberrée, J., Zhou, Z.K., 2015. Evolutionary History of Atmospheric CO 2 during the Late Cenozoic from Fossilized Metasequoia Needles. PloS one 10, e0130941.

Zhu, H., Huang, Y.-J., Ji, X.-P., Su, T., Zhou, Z.-K., 2015. Continuous existence of Zanthoxylum (Rutaceae) in Southwest China since the Miocene. Quaternary International.

Jia, L.-B., Manchester, S.R., Su, T., Xing, Y.-W., Chen, W.-Y., Huang, Y.-J., Zhou, Z.-K., 2015. First occurrence of Cedrelospermum (Ulmaceae) in Asia and its biogeographic implications. Journal of Plant Research, 1-15.

Yang, J., Spicer, R.A., Spicer, T.E.V., Arens, N.C., Jacques, F., Su, T., Kennedy, E.M., Herman, A.B., Steart, D.C., Srivastava, G., 2015. Leaf form–climate relationships on the global stage: an ensemble of characters. Global Ecology and Biogeography.

Huang, Y.-J., Chen, W.-Y., Jacques, F.M., Liu, Y.-S.C., Utescher, T., Su, T., Ferguson, D.K., Zhou, Z.-K., 2015. Late Pliocene temperatures and their spatial variation at the southeastern border of the Qinghai–Tibet Plateau. Journal of Asian Earth Sciences 111, 44-53.

Su, T., Huang, Y.-J., Meng, J., Zhang, S.-T., Huang, J., Zhou, Z.-K., 2015. A Miocene leaf fossil record of Rosa (R. fortuita n. sp.) from its modern diversity center in SW China. Palaeoworld.


Li, S.-F., Mao, L.-M., Spicer, R.A., Lebreton-Anberrée, J., Su, T., Sun, M., Zhou, Z.-K., 2015. Late Miocene vegetation dynamics under monsoonal climate in southwestern China. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 425, 14-40.

Jacques, F.M.B., Shi, G., Su, T., Zhou, Z., 2015. A tropical forest of the middle Miocene of Fujian (SE China) reveals Sino-Indian biogeographic affinities. Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology 216, 76-91.

Hu J-J, Xing Y-W, Turkington R, Jacques F M B, Su T, Huang Y-J, Zhou Z-K,2015. A new positive relationship between pCO2 and stomatal frequency in Quercus guyavifolia (Fagaceae): a potential proxy for palaeo-CO2 levels. Annals of Botany (in press) doi: 10.1093/aob/mcv007.

Meng H-H, Su T, Huang Y-J, Zhu H, Zhou Z-K, 2015. Late Miocene Palaeocarya (Engelhardieae: Juglandaceae) from Southwest China and its biogeographic implications. Journal of Systematics and Evolution (in press) doi: 10.1111/jse.12145.

Zhang J-W, D’Rozario A, Adams J M, Li Y, Liang X-Q, Jacques F M B, Su T, Zhou Z-K, 2015. Sequoia maguanensis, a new Miocene relative of the coast redwood, Sequoia sempervirens, from China: Implications for paleogeography and paleoclimate. American Journal of Botany, 102: 103-118.

Meng H-H, Gao X-Y, Huang J-F, Zhang M-L, 2015. Plant phylogeography in arid Northwest China: Retrospectives and perspectives. Journal of Systematics and Evolution, 53: 33-46.

Zhang J-W, D’Rozario A, Adams JM, Liang X-Q, Jacques FMB, Su T, Zhou Z-K, 2015. The occurrence of Pinus massoniana Lambert (Pinaceae) from the upper Miocene of Yunnan, SW China and its implications for paleogeography and paleoclimate. Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology, 215: 57-67.

Su T, Adams J M, Wappler T, Huang Y-J, Jacques F M B, Liu Y-S, Zhou Z-K, 2015. Resilience of plant-insect interactions in an oak lineage through Quaternary climate change. Paleobiology, 41: 174-186.


Frédéric M.B. Jacques, Tao Su, Robert A. Spicer, Yao-Wu Xing, Yong-Jiang Huang, Zhe-Kun Zhou, 2014. “Late Miocene southwestern Chinese floristic diversity shaped by the southeastern uplift of the Tibetan Plateau.” Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology,411: 208–215.

Wen-Yun Chen, Tao Su, Jonathan M. Adams, Frédéric M.B. Jacques, David K. Ferguson, Zhe-Kun Zhou, 2014. “Large-scale dataset from China gives new insights into leaf margin–temperature relationships.” Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 402(0): 73-80.

Zhuo Feng, Tao Su, Ji-Yuan Yang, Yu-Xuan Chen, Hai-Bo Wei, Jing Dai, Yun Guo, Jian-Rong Liu and Jia-Hui Ding, 2014. Evidence for insect-mediated skeletonization on an extant fern family from the Upper Triassic of China. Geology, May 2014, v. 42, p. 407410.

Khan M A, SpicerR A, Bera S, Ghosh R, Yang J, Spicer T E V, Guo S-X, Su T, Jacques F M B, Grote P J, 2014. Miocene to Pleistocene floras and climate of the Eastern Himalayan Siwaliks, and new palaeoelevation estimates for the Namling–Oiyug Basin, Tibet. Global and Planetary Change, 113: 1-10.


Wang W-M, Zhou Z-K, 2013. Neogene climate evolution in Eastern Eurasia with special reference to floral changes under the influence of monsoon. Palaeworld, 22: 73-76.

Su T, Liu Y-S, Jacques F M B, Huang Y-J, Xing Y-W, Zhou Z-K, 2013. The intensification of the East Asian winter monsoon contributed to the disappearance of Cedrus (Pinaceae) in southwestern China. Quaternary Research, 80: 316–325.

Su T, Jacques F M B, Ma H-J, Zhou Z-K, 2013. Fossil fruits of Ailanthus confucii from the Upper Miocene of Wenshan, Yunnan Province, southwestern China. Palaeoworld,  22: 153-158.

Jacques F M B, Su T, Huang Y-J, Wang L, Zhou Z-K, 2013. A global-scale test for monsoon indices used in palaeoclimatic reconstruction. Palaeoworld, 22: 93-100.

Jacques F M B , Su T, Zhou Z-K, 2013. The first fossil Microsoroid fern (Palaeosorum ellipticum gen. et sp. nov.) from the middle Miocene of Yunnan, SW China. Journal of Systematics and Evolution, 51: 758-764.

Wang L, Jacques F M B, Su T, Xing Y-W, Zhang S-T, Zhou Z-K, 2013. The earliest fossil bamboos of China (middle Miocene, Yunnan) and their biogeographical importance. Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology, 197: 253–265.

Xing Y-W, Hu J-J, Jacques FMB, Wang L, Su T, Huang Y-J, Liu Y-S, Zhou Z-K, 2013. A new Quercus species from the upper Miocene of southwestern China and its ecological significance. Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology, 193: 99-109.

Xing Y-W, Liu Y-S, Su T, Jacques FMB, Zhou Z-K, 2013. A new Tsuga species from the upper Miocene of Yunnan, southwestern China and its palaeogeographic significance. Palaeoworld, 22: 159-167.

Su T, Spicer R A, Liu Y-S, Huang Y-J, Xing Y-W, Jacques F M B, Chen W-Y, Zhou Z-K, 2013. Regional constraints on leaf physiognomy and precipitation regression models: a case study from China. Bulletin of Geosciences, 88: 595-608.

Su T, Jacques FMB, Spicer RA, Liu Y-S, Huang Y-J, Xing Y-W, Zhou Z-K, 2013. Post-Pliocene establishment of the present monsoonal climate in SW China: evidence from the late Pliocene Longmen megaflora. Climate of the Past, 9: 1911-1920.

Huang Y-J, Liu Y-S, Jacques FMB, Su T, Xing Y, Zhou Z-K, 2013. First discovery of Cucubalus (Caryophyllaceae) fossil, and its biogeographical and ecological implications. Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology, 190, 41-47.



Chen ST,  Xing YW,  Su T, Zhou ZK , Dilcher D, Soltis D, 2012. Phylogeographic analysis reveals significant  spatial genetic structure of Incarvillea sinensis as a product of mountain building. BMC Plant Biology 2012, 12:58

Xia, K., M.I. Daws, F.R. Hay , W.-Y. Chen, Z.-K. Zhou*, H.W. Pritchard., 2012. A comparative study of desiccation responses of seeds of Asian Evergreen Oaks, Quercus subgenus Cyclobalanopsis and Quercus subgen Quercus. S. Afr. J. Bot. 78:47-54.

Huang YJ , Jacques FMB,Liu YS,Su T,Xing YW,Xiao XH,Zhou ZK*, 2012. New fossil endocarps of Sambucus (Adoxaceae) from the upper Pliocene in SW China. Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology 171: 152–163.

Wei Wang, Rosa Del C. Ortiz, Frédéric M.B. Jacques, Xiao-Guo Xiang, Hong-Lei Li, Li Lin, Rui-Qi Li, Yang Liu, Pamela S. Soltis, Douglas E. Soltis, Zhi-Duan Chen. 2012. Menispermaceae and the diversification of tropical rainforests near the Cretaceous-Paleogene boundary. New Phytologist 195: 470-478.

Nian Wang, Frédéric M.B. Jacques, Richard I. Milne, Chang-Qin Zhang, Jun-Bo Yang. 2012. DNA barcoding of Nyssaceae (Cornales) and taxonomic issues. Botanical Studies 53: 265-274.

Nian Wang, Richard I. Milne, Frédéric M.B. Jacques, Bao-Ling Sun, Chang-Qin Zhang, Jun-Bo Yang. 2012. Phylogeny and a revised classification of the Chinese species of Nyssa (Nyssaceae) based on morphological and molecular data. Taxon 61 (2): 344-354.

Xing Y-W, T Utescher, F M B Jacques, T Su, Y-S Liu, Y-J Huang, and Z-K Zhou. Palaeoclimatic estimation reveals weak precipitation seasonality in southwestern China during the late Miocene: evidence from plant macrofossils. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology (in press).

Zhang MG, Zhou ZK, Chen WY, Slik F, 2012. Using species distribution modeling to improve conservation and land use planning of Yunnan, China. Biological Conservation, 153: 257-264


Su T, Jacques F, Liu YS, Xiang JY, Xing YW, Huang YJ, Zhou ZK, 2011. A new Drynaria ( Polypodiaceae ) from the Upper Pliocene of Southwest China. Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology 164 (2011): 132-142.

Jacques F, Wang W, Ortiz, Li HL, Zhou ZK, Chen ZD,2011. Integrating fossils in molecular-based phylogeny and testing them as calibration points for divergence time mestimates in Menispermaceae. Journal of systematics and evolution, 49(1): 25-49.

Jacques M B F, Guo S-X, Su T, Xing Y-W, Huang Y-J, Liu Y-S, Ferguson DK, Zhou Z-K*. 2011. Quantitative reconstruction of the Late Miocene monsoon climates of southwest China: a case study of the Lincang flora from Yunnan province. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 304 (3-4): 318-327.

Liu, YS,Utescher T., Zhou ZK ,Sun BN,2011. The evolution of Miocene climates in North China: preliminary results of quantitative reconstructions from plant fossil records. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 304(3-4): 308-327.

Yu WT, Chen ST, Zhou ZK., 2011. Microula pentagona sp nov and M. galactantha sp. nov. (Boraginaceae)from the eastern Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau. Nordic J. Bot. 29:215-220.

Jacques FMB, Liu YS, Matinetto E, Zhou ZK, 2011. Revised taxonomy of selected fssil endocarp sepcies in the Menispermaceae using a morphometric approach. Geodiversity, 33(1):177-197.


Xia K, Seal C E, Chen W-Y, Zhou Z-K, Pritchard H W, 2010. Fruit oil contents of the genus Quercus (Fagaceae):A  comparative study on acorns of subgenus Quercus and Asian subgenus Cyclobalanopsis. Seed Sci & Technol., 38:136-145.

Xing Y-W, Liu Y-S, Su T, Jacques F, Zhou Z-K, 2010. Pinus prekesiya sp. Nov. from the upper Miocene of Yunnan, southwestern China and its biogeographical implications. Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology, 160:1-9.

Su T, Xing YW, Liu YS, Jacques FMB, Chen WY, Huang YJ, Zhou Z-K. 2010 Leaf margin analysis: A new equation from humid to mesic forests in China. Palaios,25:234-238.

Jacques F, Z K Zhou, 2010. Geometric morphometircs: A powerful tool for the study of shape evolution in Menispermaceae endocarps. Taxon, 59(3): 881-895.

Ayodele, AE,ZHOU ZK., 2010. Scanning electron microscopy of fruits in theWest African Polygonaceae. Journal of Systematics and Evolution 48 (5): 336–343.

Yang Y. Zhou ZK., 2010. New insights into the species problem. Sci China Life Sci. 53:964-972.

Chen ST,Gong J, Guang KY, Zhou ZK, 2010. Biodiversity Conservation of the genus Incarvillea Juss. (Bignoniaceae) based on Molecular diversity and species Richness Assessment. J Plant Biol. 53:387-394.

Deng M, Zhou ZK, Coombes A, 2010. Lectotypication and New Synonymy in Quercus subg. Cyclobalanopsis (Fagaceae). Novon 20:400-405.


Xia K, Su T, Liu YS, Xing YW, Jacues F, Zhou ZK. 2009. Quantitative climate reconstructions of the late Miocene Xiaolongtan megaflora from Yunnan southwest China. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 276:80-86.

Yang QS, Chen WY, Xia K, Zhou ZK, 2009. Climatic envelope evergreen sclerophyllous oaks and their distribution in the the eastern Himalayas and Hengduan Mountains. J Syst Evol 47(3):183-190.

Li XX,Zhou ZK,2009. Phylogenetic studies of the core Aalismatdes inferred from morphology and rbcL sequences. Progress in Natural Science 19:931-945.

Liu MQ, Deng M, Zhou ZK, 2009. Taxonomic and ecological implications of leaf cuticular morphology in Castanopsis, Castanea, and Chrysolepis. Plant Syst Evol 283:111-123.


Research Projects

2016.01-2019.12 Evolution and extinction of some plants and their response to Asian monsoon climate. NSFC,No.U1502231.

2015.7-2018.6 The Miocene palaeofire reconstruction in Wenshan Basin, Yunnan Province. The Foundation of the State Key Laboratory of Paleobiology and Stratigraphy, Nanjing Institute of Geology and Paleontology, Chinese Academy of Sciences,No. 153107.

2015.1-2018.12 The late Miocene Kajun flora from Mangkang, eastern Xizang and its paleoenvironmental reconstructions,NSFC,No.31470325

2015.1-2017.12 The Miocene Kajun flora from Mangkang, eastern Xizang and its phylogeny and biogeography study,Nanjing Institute of Geology and Paleontology, Chinese Academy of Sciences,No. 143107.

2014.1-2017.12  A late Miocene flora from Wenshan, southeasern Yunnan and correlation

betwenn environment evolution and change of plant biodiversity (NSFC, No. 41372035).

2014.1-2016.12 Reconstruction of evolutionary history of paleo-CO2 levels from Cretaceous onwards based on Metasequoia fossils (NSFC, No. 31300188).

2013.1-2016.12 Miocene wood fossils and paleoenvironment in Nanfeng, Yunnan (NSFC, No. 41272007).

2011.1-2014.12 Neogene floras and climatic evolution in Hengduan Mt. (NSFC, No. 41030212).

2012.1-2015.12 Evolution and environment changes since plants landed (973 project, No. 2012CB821901) .

2012.1-2014.12 The evolution of insect herbivory on Quercus sect. Heterobalanus since the Pliocene (NSFC, No. 31100166).

2012.1-2013.12 Insect herbivory on Quercus sect. Heterobalanus from the Late Pliocene Longmen flora, West Yunnan (Open Grants of State Key Laboratory of Palaeobiology and Stratigraphy, No. 123106).

2011.1-2012.12 Leaf stomata parameters of and in response to CO2 pressure and its applications for paleoaltitude reconstructions (Open Grants of State Key Laboratory of Loess and Quaternary Geology, No. SKLLQG1014).

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