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Rapid succession of plant associations on the small ocean island of Mauritius at the onset of the Holocene
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2013 (English)In: Quaternary Science Reviews, ISSN 0277-3791, Vol. 68, 114-125 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The island of Mauritius offers the opportunity to study the poorly understood vegetation response to climate change on a small tropical oceanic island. A high-resolution pollen record from a 10 m long peat core from Kanaka Crater (560 m elevation, Mauritius, Indian Ocean) shows that vegetation shifted from a stable open wet forest Last Glacial state to a stable closed-stratified-tall-forest Holocene state. An ecological threshold was crossed at similar to 11.5 cal ka BP, propelling the forest ecosystem into an unstable period lasting similar to 4000 years. The shift between the two steady states involves a cascade of four abrupt (<150 years) forest transitions in which different tree species dominated the vegetation for a quasi-stable period of respectively similar to 1900, similar to 1100 and similar to 900 years. We interpret the first forest transition as climate-driven, reflecting the response of a small low topography oceanic island where significant spatial biome migration is impossible. The three subsequent forest transitions are not evidently linked to climate events, and are suggested to be driven by internal forest dynamics. The cascade of four consecutive events of species turnover occurred at a remarkably fast rate compared to changes during the preceding and following periods, and might therefore be considered as a composite tipping point in the ecosystem. We hypothesize that wet gallery forest, spatially and temporally stabilized by the drainage system, served as a long lasting reservoir of biodiversity and facilitated a rapid exchange of species with the montane forests to allow for a rapid cascade of plant associations.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2013. Vol. 68, 114-125 p.
Keyword [en]
Indian Ocean, Island ecology, Late Quaternary, Pollen record, Climate change, Species turnover, Regime shift
National Category
Natural Sciences
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-200652DOI: 10.1016/j.quascirev.2013.02.005ISI: 000318383900007OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-200652DiVA: diva2:624980
Available from: 2013-06-03 Created: 2013-06-03 Last updated: 2013-06-03Bibliographically approved

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