Millennial climatic fluctuations are key to the structure of last glacial ecosystems
Huntley, B., Allen, J. R. M., Collingham, Y. C., Hickler, T., Lister, A. M., Singarayer, J., Stuart, A. J., Sykes , M. T. and Valdes, P. J. (2013) Millennial climatic fluctuations are key to the structure of last glacial ecosystems. PLoS ONE, 8 (4). e61963. ISSN 1932-6203
To link to this item DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0061963
Whereas fossil evidence indicates extensive treeless vegetation and diverse grazing megafauna in Europe and northern Asia during the last glacial, experiments combining vegetation models and climate models have to-date simulated widespread persistence of trees. Resolving this conflict is key to understanding both last glacial ecosystems and extinction of most of the mega-herbivores. Using a dynamic vegetation model (DVM) we explored the implications of the differing climatic conditions generated by a general circulation model (GCM) in “normal” and “hosing” experiments. Whilst the former approximate interstadial conditions, the latter, designed to mimic Heinrich Events, approximate stadial conditions. The “hosing” experiments gave simulated European vegetation much closer in composition to that inferred from fossil evidence than did the “normal” experiments. Given the short duration of interstadials, and the rate at which forest cover expanded during the late-glacial and early Holocene, our results demonstrate the importance of millennial variability in determining the character of last glacial ecosystems.