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Nature. 2014 Feb 6;506(7486):47-51. doi: 10.1038/nature12921.

Fifty thousand years of Arctic vegetation and megafaunal diet.

Author information

1
1] Centre for GeoGenetics, Natural History Museum, University of Copenhagen, Oster Voldgade 5-7, DK-1350 Copenhagen K, Denmark [2].
2
1] Department of Botany, Institute of Ecology and Earth Sciences, University of Tartu, 40 Lai Street, 51005 Tartu, Estonia [2].
3
1] Laboratoire d'Ecologie Alpine (LECA) CNRS UMR 5553, University Joseph Fourier, BP 53, 38041 Grenoble Cedex 9, France [2].
4
1] Geography and Environment, University of Southampton, Southampton SO17 1BJ, UK [2].
5
1] Centre for GeoGenetics, Natural History Museum, University of Copenhagen, Oster Voldgade 5-7, DK-1350 Copenhagen K, Denmark [2] Department of Integrative Biology, University of California Berkeley, 1005 Valley Life Sciences Building, Berkeley, 94720 California, USA [3].
6
1] National Centre for Biosystematics, Natural History Museum, University of Oslo, PO Box 1172, Blindern, NO-0318 Oslo, Norway [2] Department of Botany, Saint Petersburg State University, Universitetskaya nab. 7/9, 199034 Saint Petersburg, Russia [3].
7
1] Centre for GeoGenetics, Natural History Museum, University of Copenhagen, Oster Voldgade 5-7, DK-1350 Copenhagen K, Denmark [2] Ancient DNA Laboratory, Veterinary and Life Sciences School, Murdoch University, 90 South Street, Perth, 6150 Western Australia, Australia [3].
8
Division of Biology, Kansas State University, Manhattan, 66506-4901 Kansas, USA.
9
Laboratoire d'Ecologie Alpine (LECA) CNRS UMR 5553, University Joseph Fourier, BP 53, 38041 Grenoble Cedex 9, France.
10
1] National Centre for Biosystematics, Natural History Museum, University of Oslo, PO Box 1172, Blindern, NO-0318 Oslo, Norway [2] Centre for Ecological and Evolutionary Synthesis, Department of Biosciences, University of Oslo, PO Box 1066, Blindern, NO-0318 Oslo, Norway (S.B.); Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research, Research Unit Potsdam, Telegrafenberg A 43, 14473 Potsdam, Germany (L.S.E.); SpyGen, Savoie Technolac, 17 allée du lac Saint André, BP 274, 73375 Le Bourget-du-Lac Cedex, France (E.B.).
11
Landscape Dynamics Unit, Swiss Federal Research Institute WSL, Zürcherstrasse 111, CH-8903 Birmensdorf, Switzerland.
12
Institut des Sciences de l'Evolution de Montpellier, UMR 5554 Université Montpellier 2, Bat.22, CC061, Place Eugène Bataillon, 34095 Montpellier Cedex 5, France.
13
University of Alaska Museum of the North, Fairbanks, 99775-6960 Alaska, USA.
14
Department of Arctic and Marine Biology, UiT, The Arctic University of Norway, NO-9037 Tromsø, Norway.
15
Geography and Environment, University of Southampton, Southampton SO17 1BJ, UK.
16
Genoscope, Institut de Genomique du Commissariat à l'Energie Atomique (CEA), 91000 Evry, France.
17
1] Adam Mickiewicz University, Faculty of Physics, Umultowska 85, 61-614 Poznań, Poland [2] Poznań Radiocarbon Laboratory, Poznań Science and Technology Park, Rubież 46, 61-612 Poznań, Poland.
18
Tromsø University Museum, NO-9037 Tromsø, Norway.
19
Centre for Ecological and Evolutionary Synthesis, Department of Biosciences, University of Oslo, P.O. Box 1066, Blindern, NO-0316 Oslo, Norway.
20
National Centre for Biosystematics, Natural History Museum, University of Oslo, PO Box 1172, Blindern, NO-0318 Oslo, Norway.
21
Permafrost Laboratory, Department of Geography, University of Sussex, Brighton BN1 9QJ, UK.
22
1] Institute of Ecology and Evolution, Russian Academy of Sciences, 33 Leninsky Prospect, 119071 Moscow, Russia [2].
23
Centre for GeoGenetics, Natural History Museum, University of Copenhagen, Oster Voldgade 5-7, DK-1350 Copenhagen K, Denmark.
24
Department of Biology, Terrestrial Ecology, Universitetsparken 15, DK- 2100 Copenhagen Ø, Denmark.
25
Australian Centre for Ancient DNA, School of Earth & Environmental Sciences, University of Adelaide, Adelaide, 5005 South Australia, Australia.
26
Department of Geology/Quaternary Sciences, Lund University Sölvegatan 12, SE-223 62 Lund, Sweden.
27
Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, University of Alberta, T6G 2E3 Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
28
Government of Yukon, Department of Tourism and Culture, Yukon Palaeontology Program, PO Box 2703 L2A, Y1A 2C6 Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, Canada.
29
INRA, UMR1213 Herbivores, F-63122 Saint-Genès-Champanelle, France.
30
Zoological Institute of Russian Academy of Sciences, Universitetskaya nab. 1, 199034 Saint-Petersburg, Russia.
31
Institute of Applied Ecology of the North of North-Eastern Federal University, Belinskogo Street 58, 677000 Yakutsk, Republic of Sakha (Yakutia), Russia.
32
Centre for Archaeological Science, School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Wollongong, Wollongong, 2522 New South Wales, Australia.
33
Division of Vertebrate Zoology/Mammalogy, American Museum of Natural History, New York, 10024 New York, USA.
34
1] National Centre for Biosystematics, Natural History Museum, University of Oslo, PO Box 1172, Blindern, NO-0318 Oslo, Norway [2].

Abstract

Although it is generally agreed that the Arctic flora is among the youngest and least diverse on Earth, the processes that shaped it are poorly understood. Here we present 50 thousand years (kyr) of Arctic vegetation history, derived from the first large-scale ancient DNA metabarcoding study of circumpolar plant diversity. For this interval we also explore nematode diversity as a proxy for modelling vegetation cover and soil quality, and diets of herbivorous megafaunal mammals, many of which became extinct around 10 kyr bp (before present). For much of the period investigated, Arctic vegetation consisted of dry steppe-tundra dominated by forbs (non-graminoid herbaceous vascular plants). During the Last Glacial Maximum (25-15 kyr bp), diversity declined markedly, although forbs remained dominant. Much changed after 10 kyr bp, with the appearance of moist tundra dominated by woody plants and graminoids. Our analyses indicate that both graminoids and forbs would have featured in megafaunal diets. As such, our findings question the predominance of a Late Quaternary graminoid-dominated Arctic mammoth steppe.

PMID:
24499916
DOI:
10.1038/nature12921
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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