A Holocene record of savanna vegetation dynamics in southern lowland Papua New Guinea

Rowe, Cassandra, David, Bruno, Mialanes, Jerome, Ulm, Sean, Petchey, Fiona, Aird, Samantha, McNiven, Ian J., Leavesley, Matthew, and Richards, Thomas (2019) A Holocene record of savanna vegetation dynamics in southern lowland Papua New Guinea. Vegetation History and Archaeobotany. (In Press)

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Abstract

The southern lowlands of Papua New Guinea (PNG) are biogeographically distinct. Vast tracts of savanna vegetation occur there and yet most palaeoecological studies have focused on highlands and/or forest environments. Greater focus on long-term lowland environments provides a rare opportunity to understand and promote the significance of local and regional savannas, ultimately allowing non-forested and forested ecosystem dynamics to be compared. This paper examines palaeoecological and archaeological data from a lowland open savanna site situated on the south-central PNG coastline. The methods used incorporate pollen and micro-charcoal analyses, artefact recovery and sediment descriptions. We conclude with an environmental model of sedimentation and vegetation change for the past c. 5,800 years, revealing a mid to late Holocene savanna interchange between herbaceous and woody plant growth, with fluctuating fire occurrence increasing toward the present day. Increased silt deposition and modified regional hydrology are also recorded. Environmental changes correspond in timing with the start of permanent settlements and human use of fire. In particular, landscape burning for hunting and gardens for agriculture have helped create the open ecosystem still evident today.

Item ID: 57885
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1617-6278
Keywords: Papua New Guinea; lowland; Savanna; Holocene; palaeoecology; archaeology
Copyright Information: Copyright © Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019
Funders: Australian Research Council (ARC)
Projects and Grants: Centre of Excellence in Australian Biodiversity and Heritage CE170100015
Date Deposited: 10 Apr 2019 04:28
FoR Codes: 06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060206 Palaeoecology @ 50%
21 HISTORY AND ARCHAEOLOGY > 2101 Archaeology > 210106 Archaeology of New Guinea and Pacific Islands (excl New Zealand) @ 25%
21 HISTORY AND ARCHAEOLOGY > 2101 Archaeology > 210102 Archaeological Science @ 25%
SEO Codes: 95 CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING > 9505 Understanding Past Societies > 950503 Understanding Australias Past @ 50%
96 ENVIRONMENT > 9608 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity > 960805 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity at Regional or Larger Scales @ 50%
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