Holocene savanna dynamics in the seasonal tropics of northern Australia

Cassandra Rowe, Michael Brand, L.B. Hutley, Christopher M. Wurster, Costijn Zwart, Vladimir A. Levchenko, Michael Bird

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Abstract

    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 6000 cal 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.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)17-31
    Number of pages15
    JournalReview of Palaeobotany and Palynology
    Volume267
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - Aug 2019

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