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After mastodons and mammoths, a transformed landscape
Date:11/19/2009

ies as black ash, elm and ironwood began to colonize a landscape dominated by coniferous trees such as spruce and larch. The resulting mix of boreal and temperate trees formed a plant community unlike any observed today.

"As soon as herbivores drop off the landscape, we see different plant communities," Gill explains, noting that mastodon herds and other large animals occupied a parkland like landscape, typified by large open spaces and patches of forest and swamp. "Our data suggest that these trees would have been abundant sooner if the herbivores hadn't been there to eat them."

While both the extinction of North America's ice age megafauna and the sweeping change to the landscape are well-documented phenomena, there was, until now, no detailed chronology of the events that remade the continent's biological communities beginning about 14.8 thousand years ago. Establishing that the disappearance of mammoths, giant beavers, ground sloths and other large animals preceded the massive change in plant communities, promises scientists critical new insight into the dynamics of extinction and its pervasive influence on a given landscape.


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Contact: John Williams
jww@geography.wisc.edu
608-265-5537
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Source:Eurekalert

Page: 1 2 3

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