The paleoecology of plants as a modern discipline, distinct from traditional floristics or biostratigraphy, has undergone an enormous expansion in the past 20 years. In addition to baseline studies characterizing extinct plants and plant assemblages in terms of their growth habits, environmental preferences, and patterns of association, paleoecology has converged on neoecology and represents a means to extend our basic understanding of the world and to contribute to the theoretical framework of ecology, writ large. Reconstruction of whole plants, including studies of physiology and developmental biology, and analyses of biomechanics have become mainstays of autecological studies. Assemblage studies now are informed by sophisticated taphonomic models that have helped guide sampling strategies and helped with the interpretation of statistical data. Linkages of assemblage patterns in space and time with sedimentology, geochemical proxies for atmospheric composition and climate, paleosol analyses, and increasingly refined geochronological and sequence stratigraphic data have permitted paleoecologists to examine rates and extents of vegetational response to environmental change and to time intervals of quiescent climatic conditions. Studies of plant-animal interaction, explicit consideration of phylogenetic information in assessing assemblage time-space dynamics, and examination of ecological structure in terms of developing metabolic scaling theory are all having direct impact on paleoecological as well as neoecological studies. The growth of paleoecology shows no sign of diminishment—closer linkages with neoecology are needed.
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Vol. 95 • No. 1