Plants in the South Pacific began losing their diversity when humans arrived on the islands

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The arrival of humans on the islands of the South Pacific has been linked to reduced diversity of plant species in the area for thousands of years, according to international, NZ and Australian researchers. The team looked at trends in the diversity of plant species over the past 5,000 years through fossil pollen records from 13 islands in the region, and say they found a trend of increased similarity between the species seen over time. They say this increased similarity is linked to human settlement, with more diversity in places likely to have remained untouched longer, and similar patterns in diversity seen on islands that were settled at similar times.

Journal/conference: Nature Ecology & Evolution

Link to research (DOI): 10.1038/s41559-023-02306-3

Organisation/s: The Australian National University, University of Canterbury, Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research, University of Southampton, UK

Funder: This work was supported by the Natural Environment Research
Council (grant number NE/L002531/1). S.N. was supported by
the European Research Council grant ERC-CoG-2021-101045309
TIME-LINES. We thank K. Richards for assistance with the pollen
notations. We are grateful to authors who have contributed their
pollen datasets to online repositories. We acknowledge the pioneering
work by J. Flenley. We also thank the three anonymous reviewers for
their helpful suggestions.

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