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Speleothem growth intervals reflect New Zealand montane vegetation response to temperature change over the last glacial cycle

Flowstone speleothem growth beneath Mount Arthur, New Zealand shows a clear relationship to vegetation density and soil development on the surface above. Flowstone does not currently form beneath sub-alpine Nothofagus forest above ca. 1000–1100 m altitude but U-Th dating shows it has formed there during past intervals of warmer-than-present conditions including an early–mid Holocene optimum and the last interglacial from ca. 131–119 ka. Some flowstones growing beneath ca. 600 m surface altitude, currently mantled with dense broadleaf-podocarp forest, grew during full glacial conditions, indicating that local tree line was never below this altitude. This implies that Last Glacial Maximum annual temperature was no more than ca. 4 °C cooler than today. Flowstone growth appears to be a robust indicator of dense surface vegetation and well-developed soil cover in this setting, and indicates that past interglacial climates of MIS 7e, 5e, the early–mid Holocene and possibly MIS 5a were more conducive to growth of trees than was the late Holocene, reflecting regional temperature changes similar in timing to Antarctic temperature changes. Here, flowstone speleothem growth is a sensitive indicator of vegetation density at high altitude, but may respond to other factors at lower altitudes.
Journal Article
Type of thesis
Hellstrom, J. C., Sniderman, K., Drysdale, R., Couchoud, I., Hartland, A., Pearson, A., & Bajo, P. (2020). Speleothem growth intervals reflect New Zealand montane vegetation response to temperature change over the last glacial cycle. Scientific Reports, 10(1). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-58317-8
Springer Science and Business Media LLC
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