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Holocene vegetation history of Flinders Island

Ladd, P.G., Orchiston, D.W. and Joyce, E.B. (1992) Holocene vegetation history of Flinders Island. New Phytologist, 122 (4). pp. 757-767.

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Two swamp sites on Flinders Island in Bass Strait provide evidence of vegetation cover for the period 10000 BP to present. Steppe vegetation in which Compositae Liguliflorae taxa and chenopods were important was present on the Flinders Island part of the Bassian Isthmus during the earliest part of the record. However, it was replaced by eucalypt forest or woodland with a grassy understorey and some shrubs as sea level rose to form the present island by 6000 BP. The eucalypt dominated vegetation became less important about 940 BP when Callitris became prominent until very recently. This change may be related to a drier climate.

Flinders Island is one of the few sites in Australia where humans were absent for an extended time (c. 4700 to 200 BP) during the Holocene. There is no particular indication of pollen or charcoal changes which can be related to the disappearance of humans from the island. However, at Killiecrankie Swamp the arrival of Europeans 200 yr ago probably caused the increased charcoal input to the swamp sediments and the vegetation change observed. Likewise Middle Patriarch Swamp records changes due to clearing and swamp drainage in the most recent times. The fact that the swamp deposits contain charcoal and pollen, together with the density of swamps on the eastern side of the island means the area is very favourably placed to provide detailed information on firing regimes unaffected by humans, in a sclerophyll vegetation very similar to that in large areas of southeastern Australia.

In the light of the pollen evidence from this study and that from other southeastern mainland and Tasmanian sites it is suggested that the apparent prominence of Casuarina in the southwest of Victoria and southeast of South Australia during the early Holocene was due to local soil factors and drier climate. Later changes in soil and climate led to a decrease in Casuarina and increase in Eucalyptus.

Publication Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Biological and Environmental Sciences
Publisher: Blackwell Publishing
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