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First plants cooled the Ordovician

The Late Ordovician period, ending 444 million years ago, was marked by the onset of glaciations. The expansion of non-vascular land plants accelerated chemical weathering and may have drawn down enough atmospheric carbon dioxide to trigger the growth of ice sheets.

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Figure 1: Global changes during the Ordovician period.
Figure 2: Moss enhances the weathering of Al, Ca, Fe, K and Mg from silicates.
Figure 3: Model results.


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We thank the Earth and Life Systems Alliance (ELSA) for funding this research. T.M.L. is also supported by NERC (NE/I005978/1). L.D. and N.P. are also supported by an EVO500 grant from the ER AdG program. P. Bota provided assistance with GC-MS.

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T.M.L. and L.D. designed the study. M.C. conducted the microcosm experiments with input from N.P. and L.D. M.C., M.J., L.D. and T.M.L. conducted geochemical analyses. N.P. and L.D. identified acids in moss exudates. T.M.L. did the modelling and sensitivity analyses. T.M.L. and L.D. wrote the paper with input from M.J., M.C. and N.P.

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Correspondence to Timothy M. Lenton or Liam Dolan.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Lenton, T., Crouch, M., Johnson, M. et al. First plants cooled the Ordovician. Nature Geosci 5, 86–89 (2012).

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