PALEOCLIMATE

Seasonal rainfall and Indonesian vegetation

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Science  20 Jun 2014:
Vol. 344, Issue 6190, pp. 1355
DOI: 10.1126/science.344.6190.1355-d

Both gradual and abrupt changes in rainfall—similar in many ways to those happening today—had dramatic effects on the vegetation of Indonesia over the past 25,000 years. Dubois et al. report that variations in the seasonality of rainfall there, and the resulting water stress during the dry season, caused large swings in the balance between grasslands and forests. Vegetation type depended more on the depth of seasonal dry cycles than on the amount of annual rainfall, they found. These results, obtained by analyzing the stable isotopic composition of fatty acids produced by vascular plants and preserved in marine sediments, reflect the importance of the monsoonal precipitation that's so vital to Indonesian agriculture and human well-being.

Nat. Geosci. 10.1038/ngeo2182 (2014).

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