History of vegetation and habitat change in the Austral-Asian region

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Quaternary International
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Over 1000 marine and terrestrial pollen diagrams and Some hundreds of vertebrate faunal sequences have been studied in the Austral-Asian region bisected by the PEPII transect, from the Russian arctic extending south through east Asia, Indochina, southern Asia, insular Southeast Asia (Sunda), Melanesia, Australasia (Sahul) and the western south Pacific. The majority of these records are Holocene but sufficient data exist to allow the reconstruction of the changing biomes over at least the past 200,000 years. The PEPII transect is free of the effects of large northern ice caps yet exhibits vegetational change in glacial cycles of a similar scale to North America. Major processes that can be discerned are the response of tropical forests in both lowlands and uplands to glacial cycles, the expansion of humid vegetation at the Pleistocene-Holocene transition and the change in faunal and vegetational controls as humans occupy the region. There is evidence for major changes in the intensity of monsoon and El Nino-Southern oscillation variability both on glacial-interglacial and longer time scales with much of the region experiencing a long-term trend towards more variable and/or drier climatic conditions. Temperature variation is most marked in high latitudes and high altitudes with precipitation providing the major climate control in lower latitude, lowland areas. At least some boundary shifts may be the response of vegetation to changing CO2 levels in the atmosphere. Numerous questions of detail remain, however, and current resolution is too coarse to examine the degree of synchroneity of millennial scale change along the transect. (C) 2003 Elsevier Ltd and INQUA. All rights reserved.


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Doi 10.1016/S1040-6182(03)00133-2