Report

65,000 Years of Vegetation Change in Central Australia and the Australian Summer Monsoon

Science  14 May 1999:
Vol. 284, Issue 5417, pp. 1150-1152
DOI: 10.1126/science.284.5417.1150

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Abstract

Carbon isotopes in fossil emu (Dromaius novaehollandiae) eggshell from Lake Eyre, South Australia, demonstrate that the relative abundance of C4 grasses varied substantially during the past 65,000 years. Currently, C4 grasses are more abundant in regions that are increasingly affected by warm-season precipitation. Thus, an expansion of C4 grasses likely reflects an increase in the relative effectiveness of the Australian summer monsoon, which controls summer precipitation over Lake Eyre. The data imply that the Australian monsoon was most effective between 45,000 and 65,000 years ago, least effective during the Last Glacial Maximum, and moderately effective during the Holocene.

  • * Present address: School of Oceanography, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195–7940, USA.

  • To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: bjohnson{at}ocean.washington.edu

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