Tropical Paleoecology

Revealing the forests of an ancient landmass

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Science  05 Dec 2014:
Vol. 346, Issue 6214, pp. 1196
DOI: 10.1126/science.346.6214.1196-g

The biogeographical history of Southeast Asia is complex. During the Pleistocene glacial cycles, sea levels repeatedly fell, exposing large areas of land and linking islands to the Asian mainland. Especially notable was Sundaland, which united Borneo, Sumatra, and the Malay Peninsula. But what kind of vegetation—forest or savannah—dominated this now-submerged landscape? To find out, Raes et al. combined geographical distribution models for species of the dominant dipterocarp tree family with models of past climates. They found that continuous rainforest was the most likely vegetation of much of Sundaland during the Pleistocene glacial cycles.

Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 10.1073/pnas.1403053111 (2014).

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