Welcome to Paleoenvironment

Understanding our environment in the past, present and future is the challenge of Earth Sciences today.

Why study paleoenvironments

Paleoenvironments record interactions between geodynamic, surface and biotic processes.

Paleoenvironments enable to understand the Earth system during major changes and crises.

Paleoenvironments provide analogues to foresee the destiny of our changing Earth.

Paleoenvironments have shaped human evolution and now we shape paleoenvironments.

My research projects focus on understanding how geodynamics, climate and life interact during major crises. I combine transdisciplinary datasets with models to determine the cause and consequences of these crises. Geodynamic, environmental and fossil data are gathered to reconstruct past geographies of our Earth and compared to climate models (see recent ERC project MAGIC Monsoons in Asia caused Greenhouse-Icehouse Cooling).

I work on the India-Asia collision region at large, including widely different geological and ecological environments such as the subarctic steppe of Central Asia or the tropical monsoonal forests of Southeast Asia. This region combines some of the most biogeographically diverse and tectonically active areas on Earth, as it straddles across the highest mountains and plateaus resulting from a complex geodynamic history throughout Phanerozoic times.

My favourite timeframe is the greenhouse to icehouse transition when the world turned from the warm greenhouse state of big mammals and dinosaurs to the icehouse state governed by ice-caps. Constraining environments in this period with enigmatic hyperthermal events and transient ice sheets is key to understand high pCO2 climate and its thresholds.

I also participate in several projects on paleoenvironment and hominid evolution mostly within the East African Rift.

How study paleoenvironments

I believe that transdisciplinarity is the key for outstanding discoveries. The field of Earth sciences being transdisciplinary by nature is one of the most exciting!

I gathered a team of international scientists from trandisciplinary backgrounds. Together we:

  1. Acquire and date paleoenvironmental records in the field.
  2. Develop cross-calibrated paleoenvironmental proxies.
  3. Integrate proxies into geodynamic, paleogeographic and climate models.

These results are integrated to make paleoenvironmental maps using a QGis Plugin called Terra Antiqua that we are developing. The produced maps are shared onto Map.Paleoenvironment, an interactive platform to share and discuss.

Sampling and exploring lake deposits in North Eastern Tibet (Xining Basin)

Societal significance

Today, this field is bringing science at the heart of the societal and economical debates defining our responsibility in preserving and sharing our planet’s fragile environments and resources.

My goals are therefore to better understand Earth processes by exploring the interfaces with other scientific fields and communicate the implications of these scientific discoveries to society through teaching and outreach projects.

Hopefully this will contribute helping us live in harmony with Nature!

Central Eastern Tibet near NanQiang


2022-03 Climate freaked out when the Earth turn cold!

Agathe’s paper tells you about the behaviour of climate variability under Climate change with a comparison of global climate model to a compilation of paleoenvironmental data. Nice also to understand biases in local datasets and their limitations.

Toumoulin*, A., Tardif*, D., Donnadieu, Y., Licht, A., Ladant, J.B., Kunzmann, L. and Dupont-Nivet, G., (2022), Evolution of continental temperature seasonality from the Eocene greenhouse to the Oligocene icehouse-A model-data comparison. Climate of the Past, pp.1-30. https://doi.org/10.5194/cp-18-341-2022

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2022-02-01. Deepest drilling at -500m

Deepest paleomagnetic drilling in the Potash mines of south Alsace, as part of the project on the Eocene Oligocene Transition in the Rhine Graben.

Inspecting Eocene evaporites 500 m below groundsurface

2022-01-19. Proposal Green-Ice funded!

The interdisciplinary MITI initiative from CNRS “Evènements Rares” has funded the GREEN-ICE project that will focus on the Eocene-Oligocene transition with an interdisciplinary team or 19 French researcher from 9 institution from transdisciplinary backgrounds.

2021-12-13. Talk on Paleo-geography at the AGU

Eurasian paleogeographic reconstructions for Cenozoic climatic and biotic evolution (invited)

Session EP14B Reconstructing Mountain Belt Tectonics and Climate

Diego Ruiz, Thomas van der Linden, Fernando Poblete, Jovid Aminov, Douwe van Hinsbergen, Mustafa Kaya, Niels Meijer, Alexis Licht, Pierrick Roperch, Carina Hoorn, Frederic Fluteau, Delphine Tardif, Yannick Donnadieu

2021-11-25. Transition climatique dans le fossé Rhénan

Emile Simon publie une bonne synthèses des enregistrements de la transition Eocène-Oligocène dans le fossé rhénan.

Emile prépare son doctorat à l’Université de Strasbourg sous la direction de Mathieu Schuster.

Emile Simon reports a nice review of the records of the Eocene-Oligocene transition in the Rhine Graben (fossé rhénan).

Emile is working on his PhD at the Strasbourg University under the guidance of Mathieu Schuster

2021-10-22. Climate variability and biome distribution

Delphine Tardif used climate models to explore the greenhouse to icehouse transition when the world turned cold 50 to 34 million years ago. She finds that short astronomical (“Milankovitch”) cycles, although usually not considered, have had a strong effect. They have radically changed the geographic distributions of climates and biomes. This can explain major changes such as the famous “Grande Coupure” that completely redefined Europe and Asian fauna and flora.

Delphine explains her PhD project

Tardif, D., Toumoulin, A., Fluteau, F., Donnadieu, Y., Le Hir, G., Barbolini, N., Licht, A., Ladant, J.B., Sepulchre, P., Viovy, N., Hoorn, C., and Dupont-Nivet, G. (2021). Orbital variations as a major driver of climate and biome distribution during the greenhouse to icehouse transition. Science Advances, 7(43), p.eabh2819. 10.1126/sciadv.abh2819

To go further see associated news below for these papers Toumoulin et al. 2021; Barbolini et al., 2021

2021-09-01. Une préface pour un beau livre sur les Steppes d’Asie Centrale

Steppes Secrètes A travers les paysages du Kazakhstan, de l’Ouzbékistan, de la Mongolie et de la Chine, il vous offre une sélection de plus de 200 photographies documentaires de nature et de voyage, commentées par nombre d’anecdotes naturalistes.

2021-07-01. Terra Antiqua plugin officially released

Terra Antiqua is a plug in for QGIS ( install QGIS) we developed to make paleogeographic reconstructions.

The plugin can then be installed directly from QGIS (Plugins/ Manage and Install Plugins)

Manual here

Github shared.

2021-06-17. Sustainable Change: Climate and Ressources

EDUC Seminar organized by Guillaume Dupont-Nivet and Katharina Klauss.

Over 50 participants present and discussed cross-disciplinary project ranging from Natural to Social Sciences.

Programme, list of participants and videos of presentations coming soon.

2021-04-30. Vegetation and Geodynamic of the India-Asia collision

Dispersal routes and paleogeography

Check out the highlight of Huansheng’s PhD on vegetation evolution during the accretion of the Burma terrane and associated paleogeographic changes. The accomplishment of years of work and the fruit of trans-disciplinary collaboration.

  • Huang, H., Pérez-Pinedo, D., Morley, R.J., Dupont-Nivet, G., Philip, A., Win, Z., Aung, D.W., Licht, A., Jardine, P.E. and Hoorn, C., 2021. At a crossroads: The late Eocene flora of central Myanmar owes its composition to plate collision and tropical climate. Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology, doi.org/10.1016/j.revpalbo.2021.104441

2021-04-28-29. EGU presentations on MAGIC results.

EGU21-15842 | vPICO presentations | EMRP3.2  Are carbonates from the India-Asia collision remagnetized ? 
Pierrick Roperch and Guillaume Dupont-Nivet Wed, 28 Apr, 15:51–15:53

EGU21-15621 | vPICO presentations | TS7.10/GD6.8/GMPV11.6/SM1.3  Northward motion of the Burma Terrane alongside India during the Cenozoic.
Jan Westerweel, Pierrick Roperch, Guillaume Dupont-Nivet, Alexis Licht, Nathan Cogne, and Fernando Poblete Thu, 29 Apr, 16:08–16:10

EGU21-14050 | vPICO presentations | TS7.6/BG3.47/GD5.8/GM9.3/SSP1.16 Revised chronology of central Tibet uplift and its implications
Xiaomin Fang, Guillaume Dupont-Nivet, Chengshan Wang, Chunhui Song, Qingquan Meng, Weilin Zhang, Junsheng Nie, Tao Zhang, and Ziqiang Mao Thu, 29 Apr, 09:36–09:38

Application of our tool Terra Antiqua presented at EGU

EGU21-12503 | vPICO presentations | EMRP3.1  Magnetostratigraphy from the Hominin Sites Paleolakes Drilling Project (HSPDP) drill cores, low latitudes reorientation
Mark Jan Sier, Guillaume Dupont-Nivet, Cor Langereis, and Andy Cohen and the HSPDP science team
Thu, 29 Apr, 11:15–11:17

EGU21-9901 * | vPICO presentations | TS7.7/GD6.7/GM9.4/GMPV11.3/SSP2.14 | Highlight  Large recent counterclockwise rotations in the Tajik Basin and implications on the Pamir salient formation
Lin Li, Guillaume Dupont-Nivet, Pierrick Roperch, Yani Najman, Mustafa Kaya, Niels Meijer, and Jovid Aminov Thu, 29 Apr, 11:21–11:23

EGU21-8613 | vPICO presentations | CL1.13/SSP2.5  Continental temperature seasonality from Eocene Warmhouse to Oligocene Coolhouse — A model-data comparison
Agathe Toumoulin, Yannick Donnadieu, Delphine Tardif, Jean-Baptiste Ladant, Alexis Licht, Lutz Kunzmann, and Guillaume Dupont-Nivet Thu, 29 Apr, 11:59–12:01

2021-04-12. Asian Geodynamic, Climate and Biodiversity during the India-Asia collision

Colloquium of the Institute of Geosciences, Potsdam University by Guillaume Duont-Nivet

2021-04-01. Evolution of continental temperature seasonality from the Eocene greenhouse to the Oligocene icehouse-A model-data comparison

Toumoulin, A., Tardif, D., Donnadieu, Y., Licht, A., Ladant, J.-B., Kunzmann, L., and Dupont-Nivet, G.: Evolution of continental temperature seasonality from the Eocene greenhouse to the Oligocene icehouse – A model-data comparison, Clim. Past Discuss. [preprint], https://doi.org/10.5194/cp-2021-27, in review, 2021.

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2021-02-25. Interview on Kazak TV Khabar 24 

2021-03-02. The onset of Asian dust

The retreat of the proto-Paratethys Sea resulted in aridification and the onset of a high-pressure system over Siberia driving the East Asian winter monsoon and dust storms.

Enjoy Niel’s cutting edge thesis work including the age of the onset of Asian dust production, a new hypothesis for this dust generation and a reappraisal of grain size methods for dust interpretations. See also Niel’s great review on interpreting dust in the sedimentary record.

Meijer, N., Dupont‐Nivet, G., Barbolini, N., Woutersen, A., Rohrmann, A., Zhang, Y., Liu, X.J., Licht, A., Abels, H.A., Hoorn, C. and Tjallingii, R., 2020. Loess‐like dust appearance at 40 Ma in central China. Paleoceanography and Paleoclimatology, doi.org/10.1029/2020PA003993

2021-02-10. Global reconstructions on interactive website

The accomplishment of years of work for Fernando’s masterpiece (monsterpiece?). It includes revisions of the geologic literature over the main orogens and a new approach to making paleoreconstructions with an associated interactive website including database and updates. Check it out!

Poblete, F., Dupont-Nivet, G., Licht, A., van Hinsbergen, D.J.J., Roperch, P., Mihalynuk, M.G., Johnston, S.T., Guillocheau, F., Baby, G., Fluteau, F., Robin, C., Van der Linden*, T.J.M., Ruiz*, D. and Baatsen, M., (2021), Towards interactive global paleogeographic maps, new reconstructions at 60, 40 and 20 Ma, Earth Science Reviews , v. 214, 10.1016/j.earscirev.2021.103508

2020-12-09. Chronology of the Tibetan Plateau uplift

Sediments on the Tibetan Plateau have recorded its past elevations. Yacks for scale. Photo @ G. Dupont-Nivet

The topographic evolution of the Tibetan Plateau is essential for understanding its construction and its influences on climate, environment, and biodiversity. The timing of uplift is a hugely controversial topic that is resolved in our recent paper:

Fang, X. Dupont-Nivet, G., Wang, CS., Song, CH., Meng, QQ., Zhang, WL., Nie, JS., Zhang, T., Mao, ZQ., Chen, Y., (2020),Revised chronology of Central Tibet uplift (Lunpola Basin). Science Advances, 6, 50, doi 10.1126/sciadv.aba7298

See also:

2020-10-09 The evolution of Central Asian steppes

Ecological collapse at the Eocene-Oligocene transition.

Barbolini, N., Woutersen, A., Dupont-Nivet, G., Silvestro, D., Tardif, D., Coster, P.M.C., Meijer, N., Chang, C., Zhang, H.X., Licht, A.,Rydin, C., Koutsodendris, A., Han, F., Rohrmann, A., Liu, X-J., Zhang, Y., Donnadieu, Y., Fluteau, F., Ladant, J-B., Le Hir, G. and Hoorn, C., (2020), Cenozoic evolution of the steppe-desert biome in Central Asia, Science Advances, 10.1126/sciadv.abb8227

See also:

2019-09-09. Drift of the Burma Terrane during the India-Asia collision

Amazing and surprising results from Jan’s thesis constrain the position of Burma to very low latitudes showing it was not part of Asia with huge implication on the India-Asia collision as well as on Asian biodiversity evolution.

Westerweel*, J., Roperch, P., Licht, A., Dupont-Nivet, G., Win, Z., Poblete, F., Ruffet, G., Swe, H.H., Thi, M.K., Aung, D.W. (2019). Burma Terrane part of the Trans-Tethyan arc during collision with India according to palaeomagnetic dataNature Geoscience. 10.1038/s41561-019-0443-2

See also:

La collision Inde-Asie vue du Myanmar

2019-06-11. The Oldest Oldowan Artifacts dated at >2.58 Ma

Beautiful tools from the in the Afar of Ethiopia(Ledi-Geraru area) are finally dated and turn out to be the oldest ever found!

Braun, D. R., Aldeias, V., Archer, W. A., Arrowsmith, JR., Baraki, N., Campisano, C. J., Deino, A.L., DiMaggio, E.N., Dupont-Nivet, G., Engda, B., Feary, D.A., Garello, D.I., Kerfelew, Z., McPherron, S.P., Patterson, D.B., Reeves, J.S., Thompson, J.C., Reed, K. E., (2019), The Oldest Oldowan Artifacts at >2.58 Ma from Ledi-Geraru, Ethiopia Highlights Pliocene Technological DiversityProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences10.1073/pnas.1820177116

See also: