Study shows progressive homogenization of vegetation in Asia due to human activity

Researchers at the University of Bergen have used a distinctive set of data to demonstrate that changes in vegetation across Asia during the last 12,000 years have been largely diverse in space and time. However, in the recent millennia, human activities during the mid-to-late Holocene have resulted in the vegetation on the continent becoming progressively more homogeneous.

Lead author of the research paper “Exploring spatio-temporal patterns of palynological changes in Asia during the Holocene,” Kuber Prasad Bhatta, who is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Bergen, has extensively analyzed ecosystem properties during the Holocene in Asia. It is crucial to comprehend the long-term dynamics of ecosystems and their properties as historical legacies impact present-day ecosystem composition and dynamics.

According to Bhatta, “To the best of our knowledge, this study is first of its kind from Asia regarding the scale and scope, which analyzes the spatial and temporal variation in vegetation on the Asian continent during the Holocene.”

Bhatta and his team of scientists used 205 fossil pollen records to summarize pollen-assemblage properties (PAPs) and offer valuable insights into past ecosystem dynamics in the paper. They analyzed spatio-temporal changes in vegetation in Asia in terms of eight properties of pollen-assemblages, such as Hill’s richness, diversity, and evenness, compositional turnover, and the rate of pollen compositional change, each at the level of individual pollen records, climate zones within the continent, and the entire continent.

Striking findings

Apart from the one-of-a-kind data-sets that Bhatta has been examining, the study’s results are also remarkable.

Bhatta stated, “This study demonstrates that vegetation transformation in Asia during the Holocene has been generally diverse across space and time, which is likely a reaction to regional climate- and land-use- changes during the period. However, the temporal patterns of compositional turnover and change suggest that vegetation in Asia may have progressively become more homogeneous during the Holocene, particularly over the recent millennia.”

According to Bhatta and his colleagues, human activity during the mid-to-late Holocene is the main reason for more uniform vegetation across Asia.

“The results we obtained are a response to significant continent- and Holocene-wide environmental changes. The rationale behind these systematic changes indicates that human activity and land-use changes, such as agricultural expansion, forest clearance, forest fire, and so on, may have resulted in temporally uniform vegetation composition,” stated Bhatta.

The study’s findings have been published in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution.

Source: University of Bergen

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