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Durham University

Department of Geography

Departmental Research Projects

Publication details

Scaife, R.G., Long, A.J., Monteath, A.J., Hughes, P.D.M., Bentley, M.J. & Stone, P. The Falkland Islands palaeoecological response to millennial scale climate perturbations during the Pleistocene-Holocene transition: implications for future vegetation stability in Southern Ocean islands. Journal of Quaternary Science. 2019.

Author(s) from Durham

Abstract

Oceanic island flora is vulnerable to future climate warming, which is likely to promote changes in vegetation composition, and invasion of non‐native species. Sub‐Antarctic islands are predicted to experience rapid warming during the next century; therefore, establishing trajectories of change in vegetation communities is essential for developing conservation strategies to preserve biological diversity. We present a Late‐glacial‐early Holocene (16 500–6450 cal a bp) palaeoecological record from Hooker's Point, Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas), South Atlantic. This period spans the Pleistocene‐Holocene transition, providing insight into biological responses to abrupt climate change. Pollen and plant macrofossil records appear insensitive to climatic cooling during the Late‐glacial, but undergo rapid turnover in response to regional warming. The absence of trees throughout the Late‐glacial‐early Holocene enables the recognition of far‐travelled pollen from southern South America. The first occurrence of Nothofagus (southern beech) may reflect changes in the strength and/or position of the Southern Westerly Wind Belt during the Late‐glacial period. Peat inception and accumulation at Hooker's Point is likely to be promoted by the recalcitrant litter of wind‐adapted flora. This recalcitrant litter helps to explain widespread peatland development in a comparatively dry environment, and suggests that wind‐adapted peatlands can remain carbon sinks even under low precipitation regimes.

Department of Geography