The Aftermath of Megafaunal Extinction: Ecosystem Transformation in Pleistocene Australia

  title={The Aftermath of Megafaunal Extinction: Ecosystem Transformation in Pleistocene Australia},
  author={Susan Rule and Barry W. Brook and Simon Graeme Haberle and Chris S. M. Turney and A. Peter Kershaw and Christopher N. Johnson},
  pages={1483 - 1486}
Human Impact? Following the arrival of humans in Australia 40- to 50,000 years ago, many species of large vertebrates rapidly became extinct. By analyzing sediment cores from a site in northeastern Australia, Rule et al. (p. 1483; see the Perspective by McGlone) show that the extinction of the Australian megafauna caused important ecosystem shifts. Prominent among these were a shift from rainforest vegetation to sclerophyllous vegetation and a sustained increase in the incidence of fire. The… 

Megafauna declines and extinctions over the past 40,000 years in eastern monsoonal China: causes, consequences and implications

Megafauna species are key to a variety of ecosystems. Closely associated with the global spread of Homo sapiens out of Africa since the Late Pleistocene, megafauna declines and extinctions have had

Variable impact of late-Quaternary megafaunal extinction in causing ecological state shifts in North and South America

Findings help in identifying modern ecosystems that are most at risk for disappearing should current pressures on the ecosystems’ large animals continue and highlight the critical role of both individual species ecologies and ecosystem context in predicting the lasting impacts of defaunation currently underway.

Fire, people and ecosystem change in Pleistocene Australia

The main conclusions are that the effects of people on fire regimes in the Pleistocene were modest at the continental scale, and difficult to distinguish from climatic controls on fire, and the arrival of people triggered extinction of Australia’s megafauna.

Geographic variation in the ecological effects of extinction of Australia's Pleistocene megafauna

Recent studies suggest that extinction of Pleistocene megafauna had large impacts on the structure and functioning of ecosystems, including increased fire and shifts in vegetation state. We argue

Humans rather than climate the primary cause of Pleistocene megafaunal extinction in Australia

A continuous 150,000-year record offshore south-western Australia is presented and it is established that substantial changes in vegetation and fire regime occurred ∼70,000 years ago under a climate much drier than today.

The Paleoecological Impact of Grazing and Browsing: Consequences of the Late Quaternary Large Herbivore Extinctions

  • John RowanJ. Faith
  • Environmental Science, Geography
    The Ecology of Browsing and Grazing II
  • 2019
As recently as ~50,000 years ago, a great diversity of large-bodied mammalian herbivores (species >44 kg) occupied nearly all of Earth’s terrestrial realms. Outside of sub-Saharan Africa, the vast

Humans, megafauna and environmental change in tropical Australia

Debate concerning the environmental impact of human arrival in Australia has continued for more than a century. Here we review the evidence for human impact and the mechanisms by which humans may

Extinction of eastern Sahul megafauna coincides with sustained environmental deterioration

The results do not support rapid or synchronous human-mediated continental-wide extinction, or the proposed timing of peak extinction events, and suggest megafauna extinctions coincide with regionally staggered spatio-temporal deterioration in hydroclimate coupled with sustained environmental change.

Biotic responses of canids to the terminal Pleistocene megafauna extinction

The results suggest that loss of megaherbivores and competition with humans likely outweighed advantages conferred from the loss of very large predators.

Ecological impacts of the late Quaternary megaherbivore extinctions.

  • J. Gill
  • Environmental Science, Geography
    The New phytologist
  • 2014
A growing number of studies support the hypothesis that the loss of the Pleistocene megafauna resulted in cascading effects on plant community composition, vegetation structure and ecosystem function, including increased fire activity, novel communities and shifts in biomes.



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.

Ecosystem Collapse in Pleistocene Australia and a Human Role in Megafaunal Extinction

A 140,000-year record of dietary δ13C documents a permanent reduction in food sources available to the Australian emu, beginning about the time of human colonization; a change replicated at three widely separated sites and in the marsupial wombat.

Did central Australian megafaunal extinction coincide with abrupt ecosystem collapse or gradual climate change

Aim In central Australia, the giant flightless bird Genyornis newtoni disappeared about 45–50 thousand years ago (ka). It has been reported that coincident with this extinction the carbon isotopic

Ecological consequences of Late Quaternary extinctions of megafauna

  • C. Johnson
  • Environmental Science, Geography
    Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
  • 2009
Understanding the past role of giant herbivores provides fundamental insight into the history, dynamics and conservation of contemporary plant communities.

Late Quaternary Extinctions: State of the Debate

Results from recent studies suggest that humans precipitated extinction in many parts of the globe through combined direct (hunting) and perhaps indirect (competition, habitat alteration) impacts, but that the timing and geography of extinction might have been different and the worldwide magnitude less, had not climatic change coincided with human impacts in many places.


Stratigraphic palynological analyses of four late Quaternary deposits com- prise a landscape-level study of the patterns and processes of megafaunal extinction in southeastern New York State.

Sporormiella and the late Holocene extinctions in Madagascar

Sediment cores from throughout Madagascar provide new information concerning megafaunal extinction and the introduction of livestock, with Sporormiella percentages very high in prehuman southwest Madagascar, but at the site with best stratigraphic resolution the spore declines sharply.

New Ages for the Last Australian Megafauna: Continent-Wide Extinction About 46,000 Years Ago

This work reports burial ages for megafauna from 28 sites and infer extinction across the continent around 46,400 years ago, ruling out extreme aridity at the Last Glacial Maximum as the cause of extinction, but not other climatic impacts; a "blitzkrieg" model of human-induced extinction; or an extended period of anthropogenic ecosystem disruption.

Redating the onset of burning at Lynch's Crater (North Queensland): implications for human settlement in Australia

Lynch's Crater preserves a continuous, high‐resolution record of environmental changes in north Queensland. This record suggests a marked increase in burning that appears to be independent of any