Palynological investigation of Holocene vegetation change in Torres Strait, seasonal tropics of northern Australia

Rowe, Cassandra (2007) Palynological investigation of Holocene vegetation change in Torres Strait, seasonal tropics of northern Australia. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, 251 (1). pp. 83-103.

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The islands of Torres Strait occupy a shallow area of submerged continental shelf narrowly separating Cape York Peninsula, Australia, from New Guinea. The human history of Torres Strait is unique with respect to mainland northern Australia. Island vegetation, however, exhibits a strong affinity with the environments of the western lowlands regions of Cape York Peninsula and with the vegetation of seasonal tropical Australia in general. Cape York Peninsula is both climatically and biologically diverse, yet few pollen studies have been carried out in its seasonally tropical environments. A summary presentation of palynological results, tracing the nature of vegetation change in Torres Strait, offers a possible framework for vegetation changes in similar environments on mainland Australia and also provides an opportunity to explore the relationship between Quaternary change in humid–tropical Australian environments and their seasonal–tropical counterparts.

Six pollen records from Torres Strait provide evidence of vegetation change and fire history over approximately the last 8000 years. Near-shore sediments reveal a Holocene succession in vegetation incorporating lower-tidal mangrove, upper-tidal mangrove, saltmarsh and freshwater swamp communities. Extensive stable mangrove communities dominated coastal Torres Strait between approximately 6000 and 3000 radiocarbon years before present (yr BP). Inland, the strongest Myrtaceae-forest and rainforest representation occurs around the mid-Holocene only to be replaced by open sclerophyll woodlands, as tree density and diversity decline in the last 3000 years. The development of continuous island freshwater swamp conditions, at the coast and inland, is similarly restricted to the late Holocene (c. 2600 yr BP) and fire, as a prominent feature in the Torres Strait environment, is also a relatively recent phenomenon. Comparisons with regional mainland Australian palynological records reveal a degree of consistency in results from Torres Strait suggesting a similarity in late Quaternary trends through Australian humid and seasonally tropical environments. A number of differences, however, are also apparent, highlighting a degree of diversity which warrants further attention.

Item ID: 37176
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1872-616X
Keywords: Holocene; vegetation history; fire history; human impact islands; Tropical Australia
Funders: Australian Institute of Nuclear Science and Engineering (AINSE), Bruno David (BD)
Projects and Grants: AINSE grant 02/033
Date Deposited: 16 Mar 2016 23:48
FoR Codes: 06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060206 Palaeoecology @ 40%
04 EARTH SCIENCES > 0406 Physical Geography and Environmental Geoscience > 040606 Quaternary Environments @ 40%
05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0501 Ecological Applications > 050104 Landscape Ecology @ 20%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9608 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity > 960805 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity at Regional or Larger Scales @ 75%
96 ENVIRONMENT > 9603 Climate and Climate Change > 960304 Climate Variability (excl. Social Impacts) @ 25%
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