Savanna in equatorial Borneo during the late Pleistocene

Wurster, Christopher M., Rifai, Hamdi, Zhou, Bin, Haig, Jordahna, and Bird, Michael I. (2019) Savanna in equatorial Borneo during the late Pleistocene. Scientific Reports, 9. 6392.

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Abstract

Equatorial Southeast Asia is a key region for global climate change. Here, the Indo-Pacific Warm Pool (IPWP) is a critical driver of atmospheric convection that plays a dominant role in global atmospheric circulation. However, fluctuating sea-levels during the Pleistocene produced the most drastic land-sea area changes on Earth, with the now-drowned continent of Sundaland being exposed as a contiguous landmass for most of the past 2 million years. How vegetation responded to changes in rainfall that resulted from changing shelf exposure and glacial boundary conditions in Sundaland remains poorly understood. Here we use the stable carbon isotope composition (δ13C) of bat guano and High Molecular Weight n-alkanes, from Saleh Cave in southern Borneo to demonstrate that open vegetation existed during much the past 40,000 yrs BP. This location is at the southern equatorial end of a hypothesized ‘savanna corridor’ and the results provide the strongest evidence yet for its existence. The corridor would have operated as a barrier to east-west dispersal of rainforest species, and a conduit for north-south dispersal of savanna species at times of lowered sea level, explaining many modern biogeographic patterns. The Saleh Cave record also exhibits a strong correspondence with insolation and sea surface temperatures of the IPWP, suggesting a strong sensitivity of vegetation to tropical climate change on glacial/interglacial timeframes.

Item ID: 58168
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 2045-2322
Copyright Information: © The Author(s) 2019. Open Access. This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Funders: NERC, Australian Research Council (ARC), James Cook University, National Geographic Society (NGS)
Projects and Grants: NERC Grants NE/D001501 and NE/D01185x/1, ARC Federation Fellowship FF0883221, ARC Discovery DP140101319, NGS Scientific Research Grant 8845-10
Date Deposited: 07 Aug 2019 04:43
FoR Codes: 04 EARTH SCIENCES > 0402 Geochemistry > 040203 Isotope Geochemistry @ 50%
04 EARTH SCIENCES > 0406 Physical Geography and Environmental Geoscience > 040606 Quaternary Environments @ 50%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9608 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity > 960805 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity at Regional or Larger Scales @ 50%
96 ENVIRONMENT > 9603 Climate and Climate Change > 960304 Climate Variability (excl. Social Impacts) @ 50%
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