Puritjarra rock shelter provides a long record of late Quaternary vegetation in the Australian arid zone. Analysis of the sedimentary history of this rock shelter is combined with reanalysis of charcoal and phytolith records to provide a first-order picture of changing landscapes in western Central Australia. These show a landscape responding to increasing aridity from 45 ka with deflation of clay-rich red palaeosols (<45 ka) and sharp declines in grassland and other vegetation at 40-36 ka, and at the beginning of the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) (24 ka). Vegetation in the catchment of the rock shelter recovered after 15 ka with expansion of both acacia woodland and spinifex grasslands, registering stronger summer rainfall in the interior of the continent. By 8.3 ka re-vegetation of local palaeosols and dunes had choked off sediment supply to the rock shelter and the character of the sediments changed abruptly. Poaceae values peaked at 5.8 ka, suggesting the early-mid Holocene climatic optimum in Central Australia is bracketed between 8.3 and 5.8 ka. Local vegetation was disrupted in the late Holocene with a sharp decline in Poaceae at 3.8 ka, coinciding with an abrupt intensification of ENSO. Local grasslands recovered over the next two millennia and by 1.5 ka the modern vegetation appears to have become established.
|Number of pages||14|
|Journal||Journal of Quaternary Science|
|Publication status||Published - Oct 2009|
- Australian arid zone
- Landscape history
- Late Quaternary
- Site formation