The last glacial cycle from the humid tropics of northeastern Australia: Comparison of a terrestrial and a marine record

Patrick T. Moss, A. Peter Kershaw

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    A detailed pollen record from the Ocean Drilling Program Site 820 core, located on the upper part of the continental slope off the coast of northeast Queensland, was constructed to compare with the existing pollen record from Lynch's Crater on the adjacent Atherton Tableland and allow the production of a regional picture of vegetation and environmental change through the last glacial cycle. Some broad similarities in patterns of vegetation change are revealed, despite the differences between sites and their pollen catchments, which can be related largely to global climate and sea-level changes. The original estimated time scale of the Lynch's Crater record is largely confirmed from comparison with the more thoroughly dated ODP record. Conversely, the Lynch's Crater pollen record has assisted in dating problematic parts of the ODP record. In contrast to Lynch's Crater, which reveals a sharp and sustained reduction in drier araucarian forest around 38,000 yrs BP, considered to have been the result of burning by Aboriginal people, the ODP record indicates, most likely, a stepwise reduction, dating from 140,000 yrs BP or beyond. The earliest reduction shows lack of a clear connection between Araucaria decline and increased burning and suggests that people may not have been involved at this stage. However, a further decline in araucarian forest, possibly around 45,000 yrs BP, which has a more substantial environmental impact and is not related to a time of major climate change, is likely, at least partially, the result of human burning. The suggestion, from the ODP core oxygen isotope record, of a regional sea-surface temperature increase of around 4°C between about 400,000 and 250,000 yrs BP, may have had some influence on the overall decline in Araucaria and its replacement by sclerophyll vegetation.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)155-176
    Number of pages20
    JournalPalaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology
    Issue number1-2
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2000


    • Australia
    • Climate change
    • Late Quaternary
    • Marine palynology
    • Rainforest history
    • Terrestrial palynology
    • Tropics

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