Palynology and palynofacies
Plant responses to changing environments on geological timescales
Macroecology in deep-time
Organic provenance and biostratigraphy
Palynomorphs such as pollen, spores and dinoflagellate cysts (dinocysts) are highly important for helping to determine depositional environments and age of sediments in the past. I sailed with IODP Expedition 337 (Deep coalbed biosphere off Shimokita) to northeast Japan as team leader for biostratigraphy.
Microfossil work on this expedition helped determine the age model based on Cenozoic pollen and spores (Oligocene-Miocene), and the environment based on palynofacies. I have also undertaken provenance studies and help derive age-models of marine sediments from the Wilcox Group (Paleocene-early Eocene) in the Gulf of Mexico (GoM).
This industrially-sponsored work helps determine the likely source areas of sediments in different parts of the economically-important GoM hydrocarbon fields: Palynomorphs are silt-sized sedimentary particles and can be transported effectively over great distances in rivers, through delta systems and then onto the continental shelf. With the British Geological Survey I work within groups undertaking shale gas research.
Palaeogene climate change and plant responses
Long-standing research has centred on biological responses to the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM). This rapid interval of global warming of c. 6°C at ≈55.8 Ma is marked by perturbations in climate and environment in both the marine and terrestrial realms from the poles to the equator.
This work has been undertaken from North America in the Bighorn Basin (Wyoming), Williston Basin (North Dakota), Ellesmere Island (Nunavat), and both the eastern and western Gulf of Mexico (Texas, Mississippi and Alabama). We recently cored sections of the Bighorn Basin because it contains the thickest and best terrestrial exposures of late Paleocene – early Eocene rocks globally.
Participation in the active BBCP (Bighorn Basin Coring Project) examines vegetation changes through the PETM using pollen and spores as a proxy for plants and is in collaboration with a large US-led consortium of universities and research institutes. This research is funded by NSF. A recent project funded by the EU Framework 7 (PEX: Testing for plant extinction across the Paleocene-Eocene boundary) databased all occurrences of late Paleocene- early Eocene pollen and spores records from North America and Europe in order to understand how plant geographic distributions change through climate perturbations in the early Paleogene. With the British Geological Survey I lead a project focused on PETM climate dynamics and biotic response from the North Sea.
Plant community dynamics in deep-time
Our research from the PETM feeds into questions relating to how biodiversity is partitioned and distributed in globally warm periods of Earth history. In addition to understanding how plants respond to climate change, my research, including collaborations with postgraduate students, seeks to understand how plants are distributed over time and geographic space on scales that exceed those of the Quaternary or Holocene time domain that forms the basis for our understanding of plant community dynamics.
This research is from the USA (Paleocene, GoM), Shanwang in China (Middle Miocene) and now from the western Amazon Basin (Miocene-Pliocene). I have also studied in the past outcrops from Oregon (Late Eocene – Oligocene) and early Eocene of the Canadian Arctic. Our research has been funded by multiple sources including the Nuffield Foundation, Mellon-Carnegie Foundation, NSF SYNTHESYS, and CAPES.
Fraser, W.T., Watson, J.S., Sephton, M.A., Lomax, B.H. Harrington, G.J., Gosling, W.D., & Self, S. 2014. Changes in spore chemistry and appearance with increasing maturity. Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology. 201: 41-46. doi:10.1016/j.revpalbo.2013.11.001
Sluijs, A.,van Roij, L., Harrington, G.J., Schouten, S., Sessa, J.A., Schneider, L.J., Reichart, G.-J., & Slomp, C.P. 2013. Intense warming, ocean anoxia and sea level rise during the Paleocene/Eocene Thermal Maximum along the US margin of the Gulf of Mexico. Climates of the Past Discussion 9:6459-6494, doi:10.5194/cpd-9-6459-2013.
Clyde, W.C. et al. (BBCP Science Team). 2013. Bighorn Basin Coring Project (BBCP): A continental perspective on Early Paleogene Hyperthermals. Scientific Drilling.16:21-31. doi:10.5194/sd-16-21-2013
Inagaki, F., Hinrichs, K.-U., Kubo, Y. and the Expedition 337 Scientists. 2012. Deep Coalbed Biosphere off Shimokita: microbial processes and hydrocarbon system associated with deeply buried coalbed in the ocean. IODP Preliminary Report.,337 doi:10.2204/iodp.pr.337.2012
Lomax, B.H., Fraser, W.T., Harrington, G.J., Blackmore,S., Sephton, M.A. & Harris, N.B.W. 2012. A novel palaeoaltimetry proxy based on spore and pollen wall chemistry. Earth and Planetary Science Letters. 353-354: 22-28.
Harrington, G.J. Eberle, J., Le-Page, B., Dawson, M. & Hutchison, H. 2012. Arctic plant diversity in the early Eocene greenhouse. Proceedings of the Royal Society, London, B. 279: 1515-1521, doi:10.1098/rspb.2011.1704.
Jardine, P.E., Harrington, G.J. & Stidham, T, 2012. Regional-scale spatial heterogeneity in the Late Paleocene paratropical forests of the U.S. Gulf Coast. Paleobiology. 38:15-39.
Harrington, G.J. 2010. Macroecology in Deep Time. Palaeontology.53:1201
Collinson, M.E., Steart, D.C., Harrington, G.J., et al. 2009. Palynological evidence of vegetation dynamics in response to palaeoenvironmental change across the onset of the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum at Cobham, Southern England. Grana. 48: 38-66
Wing, S.L., Bloch, J.I., Bowen, G.J., Boyer, D.M., Chester, S., Diefendorf, A.F., Harrington, G.J., Kraus, M.J., Secord, R. and McInerney, F.A. 2009.Coordinated sedimentary and biotic changes during the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum in the Bighorn Basin, Wyoming, U.S.A. in Crouch, E.M. et al. (eds.) Climatic and Biotic Events of the Paleogene (CBEP 2009), extended abstracts from an international conference in Wellington, New Zealand, 12-15 January 2009. GNS Science Miscellaneous Series 18:157-163.
Jardine, P.E. & Harrington, G.J. 2008. The Red Hills Mine flora: a diverse swamp palynoflora from the Late Paleocene of Mississippi. U.S.A. Palynology. 32:183-204.
Harrington, G.J. 2008. Palaeocene-Eocene paratropical swamp palynofloras from Alabama and Mississippi, USA. Palaeontology. 51: 611-622.
Jaramillo, C.A., Pardo-Trujillo, A., Rueda, M, Harrington, G.J., Bayona, G., Torres, V. & Mora, G. 2007. Palynology of the Cerrejon Formation (Paleocene), Northern Colombia. Palynology. 31: 153-189.
Clechenko, E.R., Kelly, D.C., Harrington, G.J. & Stiles, C.A. 2007. Terrestrial records of a regional weathering pattern at the Paleocene-Eocene boundary in the Williston Basin of North Dakota. GSA Bulletin. 119: 428-442.
Harrington, G.J. & Jaramillo, C.A. 2007. Paratropical floral extinction in the Late Palaeocene–Early Eocene. Journal of the Geological Society of London. 164: 323-332.
Wing, S.L., Harrington, G.J., Smith, F.A., Bloch, J.I, Boyer, D.M. & Freeman, K.H. 2005. Transient floral change and rapid global warming at the Paleocene-Eocene boundary. Science. 310: 993–996.
Harrington, G.J., Clechenko, E.R & Kelly, D.C. 2005.Palynology and organic-carbon isotope ratios across a terrestrial Palaeocene/Eocene boundary section in the Williston Basin, North Dakota, USA. Palaeogeography Palaeoclimatology Palaeoecology. 226: 214-232.
Haughton, P.D.W., Praeg, D., Shannon, P., Harrington, G., Higgs, K., Amy, L., Tyrrell, S. and Morrissey, T. 2005. First results from shallow stratigraphic boreholes on the eastern flank of the Rockall Basin, offshore western Ireland. In: Doré, A.G. and Vining, B. (eds), Petroleum Geology: North-West Europe and Global Perspectives - Proceedings of the 6th Petroleum Geology Conference. Geological Society, London. p.1077-1094.
Harrington, G.J., Kemp, S.J., & Koch, P.L. 2004. Palaeocene–Eocene paratropical floral changes in North America: responses to climate change and plant immigration. Journal of the Geological Society of London. 161: 173–184.
Harrington, G.J. 2004. Structure of the North American vegetation gradient during the Late Paleocene/early Eocene warm climate. Evolutionary Ecology Research. 6: 33–48
Harrington, G.J. 2003. Wasatchian (early Eocene) pollen floras from the Red Hot Truck Stop, Mississippi, USA. Palaeontology. 46: 725–738.
Harrington, G.J. 2003b. Geographic patterns in the floral response to Paleocene–Eocene warming. In: Wing, S.L., Gingerich, P.D., Schmitz, B., & Thomas, E. (eds.), Causes and consequences of globally warm climates in the early Paleogene. Geological Society of America, Special Paper. 369: 381–393.
Wing, S.L, Harrington, G.J., Bowen, G.J., & Koch, P.L. 2003. Floral change during the Initial Eocene Thermal Maximum in the Powder River Basin, Wyoming. In: Wing, S.L., Gingerich, P.D., Schmitz, B., & Thomas, E. (eds.), Causes and consequences of globally warm climates in the early Paleogene. Geological Society of America, Special Paper. 369: 425–440.
Wing, S.L. and Harrington, G.J. 2001. Floral response to rapid warming at the Paleocene/Eocene boundary and implications for concurrent faunal change. Paleobiology. 27: 539–563
Harrington, G.J. and S.J. Kemp. 2001. US Gulf Coast vegetation dynamics during the latest Palaeocene. Palaeogeography Palaeoclimatology Palaeoecology. 167: 1–21
Harrington, G.J. 2001. Pollen assemblages and Paleocene-Eocene stratigraphy in the Bighorn and Clarks Fork Basins. In: Gingerich, P.D. (ed.), Paleocene-Eocene stratigraphy and biotic change in the Bighorn and Clarks Fork Basins, Wyoming. University of Michigan Papers on Paleontology. 33: 89–96
Harrington, G.J. 2001b. Impact of Paleocene/Eocene greenhouse warming on North American paratropical forests. Palaios. 16: 266–278