Seabird establishment during regional cooling drove a terrestrial ecosystem shift 5000 years ago

Dulcinea V. Groff, Kit M. Hamley, Trevor J.R. Lessard, Kayla E. Greenawalt, Moriaki Yasuhara, Paul Brickle, Jacquelyn L. Gill

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


The coastal tussac (Poa flabellata) grasslands of the Falkland Islands are a critical seabird breeding habitat but have been drastically reduced by grazing and erosion. Meanwhile, the sensitivity of seabirds and tussac to climate change is unknown because of a lack of long-term records in the South Atlantic. Our 14,000-year multiproxy record reveals an ecosystem state shift following seabird establishment 5000 years ago, as marine-derived nutrients from guano facilitated tussac establishment, peat productivity, and increased fire. Seabird arrival coincided with regional cooling, suggesting that the Falkland Islands are a cold-climate refugium. Conservation efforts focusing on tussac restoration should include this terrestrial-marine linkage, although a warming Southern Ocean calls into question the long-term viability of the Falkland Islands as habitat for low-latitude seabirds.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberabb2788
JournalScience Advances
Issue number43
StatePublished - Oct 23 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by the U.S. NSF Adaptation to Abrupt Climate Change IGERT program grant DGE-1144423, a Geologic Society of America Graduate Student Research Grant, the Dan and Betty Churchill Fund, the University of Maine Graduate Student Government, >180 crowdfunders, and a LacCore Visiting Student Research Grant.

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2020 The Authors, some rights reserved; exclusive licensee American Association for the Advancement of Science. No claim to original U.S. Government Works. Distributed under a Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial License 4.0 (CC BY-NC).

Copyright 2020 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.

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