The subantarctic islands lie in a vast belt of waves and wind that encircle the mid- latitudes of the southern hemisphere. The region has acquired dramatic names—the ‘screaming sixties’, the ‘furious fifties’, the ‘roaring forties’— because of the temperature difference of several degrees over a relatively narrow band of latitude. Disentangling the mechanisms of past change and the role of westerly airflow, however, has proved difficult due to the dearth of published records. By analysing peat, lake and ocean sediments back through time it’s possible to reconstruct past environmental, climate and human change. The subantarctic islands offer the chance to resolve questions on what drives global climate change.
From the rear deck of the expedition vessel we cored the subantarctic ocean floor sediments to reconstruct environmental changes over the past 10,000 years
Using the past to reconstruct climate and vegetation changes
The research program
Testing the impact of large herbivore extinction remains a major challenge. Here we use a peat core from subantarctic Enderby Island to investigate how dung fungi alongside pollen can be used to reconstruct the impact of mammals on vegetation.Download
On the subantarctic islands, peat exposures show Dracophyllum once grew above present day tree line. Here we find there was a major collapse in the altitudinal limit of growth between approximately 2000 and 1000 years ago suggesting westerly winds were stronger at this time.Download