Nat Commun. 2022 Aug 4;13(1):4530. doi: 10.1038/s41467-022-32077-7.
Earth’s long-term climate may have profoundly influenced plant evolution. Local climatic factors, including water availability, light, and temperature, play a key role in plant physiology and growth, and have fluctuated substantially over geological time. However, the impact of these key climate variables on global plant biomass across the Phanerozoic has not yet been established. Linking climate and dynamic vegetation modelling, we identify two key ‘windows of opportunity’ during the Ordovician and Jurassic-Paleogene capable of supporting dramatic expansions of potential plant biomass. These conditions are driven by continental dispersion, paleolatitude of continental area and a lack of glaciation, allowing for an intense hydrological cycle and greater water availability. These windows coincide with the initial expansion of land plants and the later angiosperm radiation. Our findings suggest that the timing and expansion of habitable space for plants played an important role in plant evolution and diversification.