Characterisation of neotropical savanna and seasonally dry forest ecosystems by their modern pollen rain
Jones, Huw T.
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At present there is uncertainty over the response of neotropical ecosystems to the climatic changes of the Quaternary. The majority of vegetation reconstructions from the region are derived from fossil pollen records extracted from lake sediments. However, the interpretation of these records is restricted by limited knowledge of the contemporary relationships between the vegetation and pollen rain of neotropical ecosystems, especially for more open vegetation such as savanna and dry forest. This research aims to improve the interpretation of these records by investigating the relationship between the vegetation and modern pollen rain of different savanna and seasonally dry tropical forest (SDTF) ecosystems in Bolivia using artificial pollen traps and surface lake sediments to analyse the modern pollen rain. Vegetation data is used to identify taxa that are floristically important within the different ecosystems and to allow modern pollen/vegetation ratios to be calculated. The modern pollen rain from the upland savanna is dominated by Moraceae/Urticaceae (35.1%), Poaceae (29.6%), Alchornea (6.1%) and Cecropia (4.1%), whilst the seasonally-inundated savanna sites are dominated by Moraceae/Urticaceae (30.7%), Poaceae (19.5%), Cyperaceae (14.0%) and Cecropia (7.9%). These two different savanna ecosystems are only slightly differentiated by their modern pollen rain. The main taxa in the modern pollen rain of the upland SDTF are Moraceae/Urticaceae (25.8%), Cecropia (10.5%), Acalypha (7.6%) and Combretaceae/Melastomataceae (6.7%). Seasonally-inundated SDTF is dominated by Cecropia pollen to the extent that it was removed from the pollen sum and the main non-Cecropia pollen types are Moraceae/Urticaceae (39.0%), unknown type df 61 (6.4%), Asteraceae (6.3%), Celtis (6.0%) and Physocalymma scaberrimum (4.9%). These two SDTF ecosystems are well differentiated by their modern pollen rain, implying that they may be defined in fossil pollen records. The modern pollen rain obtained from the surface lake samples is generally complementary to that obtained from the artificial pollen traps for a given ecosystem. All sites have a high Moraceae/Urticaceae pollen signal due to effective dispersal of this pollen type from areas of evergreen forest in close proximity to the study sites. The savanna sites show lower Poaceae percentages than have been previously reported in the literature by some authors and this raises the possibility than the extent of this ecosystem in the past may have been underestimated. Modern pollen/vegetation ratios show that many key vegetation types are absent/under-represented within the modern pollen rain.