The aftermath of megafaunal extinction: ecosystem transformation in Pleistocene Australia

Johnson, Christopher N., Kershaw, A. Peter, Rule, Susan, Brook, Barry W., Haberle, Simon G., and Turney, Chris S. M. (2012) The aftermath of megafaunal extinction: ecosystem transformation in Pleistocene Australia. Science, 335 (6075). pp. 1483-1486.

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Abstract

Giant vertebrates dominated many Pleistocene ecosystems. Many were herbivores, and their sudden extinction in prehistory could have had large ecological impacts. We used a high-resolution 130,000-year environmental record to help resolve the cause and reconstruct the ecological consequences of extinction of Australia's megafauna. Our results suggest that human arrival rather than climate caused megafaunal extinction, which then triggered replacement of mixed rainforest by sclerophyll vegetation through a combination of direct effects on vegetation of relaxed herbivore pressure and increased fire in the landscape. This ecosystem shift was as large as any effect of climate change over the last glacial cycle, and indicates the magnitude of changes that may have followed megafaunal extinction elsewhere in the world.

Item ID: 22221
Item Type: Article (Refereed Research - C1)
ISSN: 0036-8075
Date Deposited: 28 Jun 2012 16:17
FoR Codes: 05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0502 Environmental Science and Management > 050202 Conservation and Biodiversity @ 100%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9613 Remnant Vegetation and Protected Conservation Areas > 961308 Remnant Vegetation and Protected Conservation Areas at Regional or Larger Scales @ 100%
Citation Count from Web of Science Web of Science 2
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