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Ecology of Climate ChangeThe Importance of Biotic Interactions$
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Eric Post

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780691148472

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691148472.001.0001

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Pleistocene Warming and Extinctions

Pleistocene Warming and Extinctions

(p.24) Chapter 2 Pleistocene Warming and Extinctions
Ecology of Climate Change

Eric Post

Princeton University Press

This chapter explores the dynamics of plant and animal species and species assemblages during the Earth's most recent period of rapid warming to garner insights into the potential consequences of future rapid climate change. From the perspective of climate change ecology, the Late Pleistocene and the Pleistocene–Holocene transition are relevant because they represent the end of a prolonged period of climatic fluctuation on multiple temporal scales followed by rapid warming. Not only did Earth's major biomes undergo extensive compositional changes during the late Quaternary and near the termination of the Pleistocene epoch, they also underwent geographically large-scale redistributions, and did so rapidly, in some cases on the scale of decades. If rapid warming during the Pleistocene–Holocene transition contributed to—or even acted as the main driver of—mass extinctions, such a scenario would seem to suggest that contemporary climate change has a similar capacity to precipitate species losses.

Keywords:   species assemblages, rapid warming, rapid climate change, climate change ecology, Late Pleistocene, Pleistocene–Holocene transition, climatic fluctuation, mass extinctions, species losses

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