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Differentiation of neotropical ecosystems by modern soil phytolith assemblages and its implications for palaeoenvironmental and archaeological reconstructions

Dickau, R., Whitney, B. S., Iriarte, J., Mayle, F. E., Soto, J. D., Metcalfe, P., Street-Perrott, F. A., Loader, N. J., Ficken, K. J. and Killeen, T. J. (2013) Differentiation of neotropical ecosystems by modern soil phytolith assemblages and its implications for palaeoenvironmental and archaeological reconstructions. Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology, 193. pp. 15-37. ISSN 0034-6667

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1016/j.revpalbo.2013.01.004

Abstract/Summary

The interpretation of Neotropical fossil phytolith assemblages for palaeoenvironmental and archaeological reconstructions relies on the development of appropriate modern analogues. We analyzed modern phytolith assemblages from the soils of ten distinctive tropical vegetation communities in eastern lowland Bolivia, ranging from terra firme humid evergreen forest to seasonally-inundated savannah. Results show that broad ecosystems – evergreen tropical forest, semi-deciduous dry tropical forest, and savannah – can be clearly differentiated by examination of their phytolith spectra and the application of Principal Component Analysis (PCA). Differences in phytolith assemblages between particular vegetation communities within each of these ecosystems are more subtle, but can still be identified. Comparison of phytolith assemblages with pollen rain data and stable carbon isotope analyses from the same vegetation plots show that these proxies are not only complementary, but significantly improve taxonomic and ecosystem resolution, and therefore our ability to interpret palaeoenvironmental and archaeological records. Our data underline the utility of phytolith analyses for reconstructing Amazon Holocene vegetation histories and pre-Columbian land use, particularly the high spatial resolution possible with terrestrial soil-based phytolith studies.

Item Type:Article
Refereed:Yes
Divisions:Faculty of Science > School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Science > Earth Systems Science
Faculty of Science > School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Science > Department of Geography and Environmental Science
Interdisciplinary centres and themes > Soil Research Centre
ID Code:32923
Publisher:Elsevier

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