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Supervolcano eruption -- in Sumatra -- deforested India 73,000 years ago
Date:11/23/2009

tope ratios in fossil soil carbonates taken from directly above and below the Toba ash in three locations in central India.

Carbon isotopes reflect the type of vegetation that existed at a given locale and time. Heavily forested regions leave carbon isotope fingerprints that are distinct from those of grasses or grassy woodlands.

Both lines of evidence revealed a distinct change in the type of vegetation in India immediately after the Toba eruption, the researchers report. The pollen analysis indicated a shift to a "more open vegetation cover and reduced representation of ferns, particularly in the first 5 to 7 centimeters above the Toba ash," they wrote in the journal Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology. The change in vegetation and the loss of ferns, which grow best in humid conditions, they wrote, "would suggest significantly drier conditions in this region for at least one thousand years after the Toba eruption."

The dryness probably also indicates a drop in temperature, Ambrose said, "because when you turn down the temperature you also turn down the rainfall."

The carbon isotope analysis showed that forests covered central India when the eruption occurred, but wooded to open grassland predominated for at least 1,000 years after the eruption.

"This is unambiguous evidence that Toba caused deforestation in the tropics for a long time," Ambrose said. This disaster may have forced the ancestors of modern humans to adopt new cooperative strategies for survival that eventually permitted them to replace neandertals and other archaic human species, he said.


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Contact: Diana Yates
diya@illinois.edu
217-333-5802
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Source:Eurekalert  

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Supervolcano eruption -- in Sumatra -- deforested India 73,000 years ago
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