Palaeo-Trophic Cascades (PACE)
The extinction of a number of large herbivores (e.g. Mammuthus primigenius, woolly mammoth and Megaloceros giganteus, giant deer) at the end of the Pleistocene epoch was coincident with major ecosystem changes such as reduced plant species diversity, encroachment of woody plants, altered fire regimes, global climate warming and declining terrestrial nitrogen (N) availability. Recent palaeoecological research has suggested that extinction of these megafauna caused the changes in plant community composition and ecosystem functioning. However, the coincidence in time of both major ecosystem alterations and species extinctions has heretofore challenged attempts to determine whether Late Pleistocene ecosystem changes were the cause or the consequence of the large herbivore extinctions. PACE will use novel approaches to investigate the complex interactions between climate change and the dynamics of plant, large herbivore and invertebrate populations, and terrestrial N cycling from high-resolution multi-proxy palaeoecological data. This is a collaboration involving researchers at the University of Oxford, Plymouth University and the Natural History Museum, London.