Holocene savanna dynamics in the seasonal tropics of northern Australia

Rowe, Cassandra, Brand, Michael, Hutley, Lindsay B., Wurster, Christopher, Zwart, Costijn, Levchenko, Vlad, and Bird, Michael (2019) Holocene savanna dynamics in the seasonal tropics of northern Australia. Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology, 267. pp. 17-31.

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An environmental history is presented from Girraween Lagoon, Darwin region of the Northern Territory, Australia. Pollen and charcoal analysis of a 5-meter sediment core provides a record of vegetation change, fire history and climate spanning 12,700 cal BP to the present day. This study focusses on tree-grass vegetation dynamics, eucalypt to non-eucalypt plant interactions, and climate–fire–human relationships in an area where few long-term savanna records exist. The dataset suggests wetlands experienced alternating episodes of ephemeral waterlogging and seasonal inundation due to post-glacial monsoon variability up until permanent inundation from approximately 6000cal BP. The surrounding catchment transformed from a terminal Pleistocene–early Holocene wooded-savanna to a later Holocene open forest. This increase in woody cover was a prominent site feature, primarily driven by climate–moisture availability. In turn, the extent of fire and fire impact, is a function of climate–vegetation feedbacks. Such interplay between fire history, climate change and vegetation pattern was also influenced by more intense human management of the area, in the last 4000 years of the record. It is proposed Girraween may have become a much-socialized and managed human landscape in this late Holocene phase. Results provide essential baseline data describing savanna dynamics linked to contemporary ecological observation, understanding and management goals, and serves as an important resource for the Quaternary sciences and archeology of northern Australia.

Item ID: 58569
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 0034-6667
Keywords: Eucalypt; Poaceae; Pollen; Fire; Northern Territory; Monsoon
Funders: Australian Research Council (ARC)
Projects and Grants: ARC FL140100044, ARC CE17000015, ARC DP130100334
Date Deposited: 16 Jul 2019 03:00
FoR Codes: 37 EARTH SCIENCES > 3709 Physical geography and environmental geoscience > 370905 Quaternary environments @ 25%
31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3103 Ecology > 310306 Palaeoecology @ 60%
45 INDIGENOUS STUDIES > 4501 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture, language and history > 450101 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander archaeology @ 15%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9608 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity > 960805 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity at Regional or Larger Scales @ 40%
97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970121 Expanding Knowledge in History and Archaeology @ 20%
96 ENVIRONMENT > 9608 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity > 960806 Forest and Woodlands Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity @ 40%
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