Biophysical feedbacks between the Pleistocene megafauna extinction and climate: The first human‐induced global warming?

  title={Biophysical feedbacks between the Pleistocene megafauna extinction and climate: The first human‐induced global warming?},
  author={Christopher E. Doughty and Adam Wolf and Christopher B. Field},
  journal={Geophysical Research Letters},
A large increase in Betula during a narrow 1000 year window, ∼13,800 years before present (YBP) in Alaska and Yukon corresponded in time with the extinction of mammoths and the arrival of humans. Pollen data indicate the increase in Betula during this time was widespread across Siberia and Beringia. We hypothesize that Betula increased due to a combination of a warming climate and reduced herbivory following the extinction of the Pleistocene mega herbivores. The rapid increase in Betula… 

Figures from this paper

Assessing the impact of late Pleistocene megafaunal extinctions on global vegetation and climate

Abstract. The end of the Pleistocene was a turning point for the Earth system as climate gradually emerged from millennia of severe glaciation in the Northern Hemisphere. The deglacial climate change

Pleistocene Arctic megafaunal ecological engineering as a natural climate solution?

Support is found for a megafauna-based arctic NCS yielding substantial income in carbon markets and generating an ecosystem shift that is economically viable in terms of carbon benefits and of sufficient scale to play a significant role in global climate change mitigation.

Preindustrial Human Impacts on Global and Regional Environment

Humans have had an impact on regional and global environments even prior to the Industrial Revolution through anthropogenic fire, agriculture, and the extinction of the Pleistocene megafauna. The

The impact of the megafauna extinctions on savanna woody cover in South America

Has land surface cover in South America been impacted by the loss of most large herbivores following the severe Pleistocene and Early Holocene megafauna extinctions on this continent? Here, we

Exploring the influence of ancient and historic megaherbivore extirpations on the global methane budget

It is suggested that large-bodied mammals have a greater influence on methane emissions than previously appreciated and, further, that changes in the source pool from herbivores can influence global biogeochemical cycles and, potentially, climate.

Megafauna and ecosystem function from the Pleistocene to the Anthropocene

Progress is reviewed in understanding of how megafauna affect ecosystem physical and trophic structure, species composition, biogeochemistry, and climate, drawing on special features of PNAS and Ecography that have been published as a result of an international workshop held in Oxford in 2014.


Could large herbivores (“megaherbivores”) modify tree-cover sufficiently to disrupt the hydrological cycle? The implications of such interactions are profound: potentially switching climates from wet

New carbon dates link climatic change with human colonization and Pleistocene extinctions

Many new radiocarbon dates are added to those already published on late Pleistocene fossils from Alaska and the Yukon Territory and show previously unrecognized patterns, indicating a radical ecological sorting during a uniquely forage-rich transitional period, affecting all large mammals, including humans.

Pleistocene Megafaunal Collapse, Novel Plant Communities, and Enhanced Fire Regimes in North America

The data suggest that population collapse and functional extinction of the megafauna preceded their final extinction by several thousand years and closely preceded enhanced fire regimes and the development of plant communities that have no modern analogs.

Feedbacks between climate and boreal forests during the Holocene epoch

PREVIOUS studies1–5 have demonstrated that the predictions of global climate models are highly sensitive to large changes in vegetation cover, such as the complete removal of tropical or boreal

Steppe-Tundra Transition: A Herbivore-Driven Biome Shift at the End of the Pleistocene

Results indicate that mammalian grazers have a sufficiently large effect on vegetation and soil moisture that their extinction could have contributed substantially to the shift from predominance of steppe to tundra at the Pleistocene-Holocene boundary.

Rapid body size decline in Alaskan Pleistocene horses before extinction

It is shown that horses underwent a rapid decline in body size before extinction, and it is proposed that the size decline and subsequent regional extinction at 12,500 radiocarbon years before present are best attributed to a coincident climatic/vegetational shift.

Assessing the Causes of Late Pleistocene Extinctions on the Continents

Evidence now supports the idea that humans contributed to extinction on some continents, but human hunting was not solely responsible for the pattern of extinction everywhere, and suggests that the intersection of human impacts with pronounced climatic change drove the precise timing and geography of extinction in the Northern Hemisphere.


This paper integrates recent efforts to map the distribution of biomes for the late Quaternary with the detailed evidence that plant species have responded individual- istically to climate change at

The distribution of late-Quaternary woody taxa in northern Eurasia: evidence from a new macrofossil database

Effects of boreal forest vegetation on global climate

TERRESTRIAL ecosystems are thought to play an important role in determining regional and global climate1–6; one example of this is in Amazonia, where destruction of the tropical rainforest leads to

The Anthropogenic Greenhouse Era Began Thousands of Years Ago

The anthropogenic era is generally thought to have begun 150 to 200 years ago, when the industrial revolution began producing CO2 andCH4 at rates sufficient to alter their compositions in the