The late Quaternary decline and extinction of palms on oceanic Pacific islands

Matthew Prebble, John L Dowe

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


    Late Quaternary palaeoecological records of palm decline, extirpation and extinction are explored from the oceanic islands of the Pacific Ocean. Despite the severe reduction of faunal diversity coincidental with human colonisation of these previously uninhabited oceanic islands, relatively few plant extinctions have been recorded. At low taxonomic levels, recent faunal extinctions on oceanic islands are concentrated in larger bodied representatives of certain genera and families. Fossil and historic records of plant extinction show a similar trend with high representation of the palm family, Arecaceae. Late Holocene decline of palm pollen types is demonstrated from most islands where there are palaeoecological records including the Cook Islands, Fiji, French Polynesia, the Hawaiian Islands, the Juan Fernandez Islands and Rapanui. A strong correspondence between human impact and palm decline is measured from palynological proxies including increased concentrations of charcoal particles and pollen from cultivated plants and invasive weeds. Late Holocene extinctions or extirpations are recorded across all five of the Arecaceae subfamilies of the oceanic Pacific islands. These are most common for the genus Pritchardia but also many sedis fossil palm types were recorded representing groups lacking diagnostic morphological characters.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)2546-2567
    JournalQuaternary Science Reviews
    Issue number27-28
    Publication statusPublished - 2008


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