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Global biome patterns of the Middle and Late Pleistocene

Huntley, Brian; Allen, Judy R.M.; Forrest, Matthew; Hickler, Thomas; Ohlemüller, Ralf; Singarayer, Joy S.; Valdes, Paul J.

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Brian Huntley

Matthew Forrest

Thomas Hickler

Ralf Ohlemüller

Joy S. Singarayer

Paul J. Valdes


Our primary aim was to assess the hypothesis that distinctive features of the patterns of vegetation change during successive Quaternary glacial–interglacial cycles reflect climatic differences arising from forcing differences. We addressed this hypothesis using 207 half-degree resolution global biome pattern simulations, for time slices between 800 ka and 2 ka, made using the LPJ-GUESS dynamic global vegetation model. Simulations were driven using ice-core atmospheric CO2 concentrations, Earth’s obliquity, and outputs from a pre-industrial and 206 palaeoclimate experiments; four additional simulations were driven using projected future CO2 concentrations. Climate experiments were run using HadCM3. Using a rule-based approach, above-ground biomass and leaf area index of LPJ-GUESS plant functional types were used to infer each grid cell’s biome. The hypothesis is supported by the palaeobiome simulations. To enable comparisons with the climatic forcing, multivariate analyses were performed of global vegetation pattern dissimilarities between simulations. Results showed generally similar responses to glacial–interglacial climatic variations during each cycle, although no two interglacials or glacials had identical biome patterns. Atmospheric CO2 concentration was the strongest driver of the dissimilarity patterns. Dissimilarities relative to the time slice with the lowest atmospheric CO2 concentration show the log–linear relationship to atmospheric CO2 concentration expected of an index of ecocarbon sensitivity. For each simulation, extent and total above-ground biomass of each biome were calculated globally and for three longitudinal segments corresponding to the major continental regions. Mean and minimum past extents of forest biomes, notably Temperate Summergreen Forest, in the three major continental regions strongly parallel relative tree diversities, hence supporting the hypothesis that past biome extents played an important role in determining present diversity. Albeit that they reflect the climatic consequences only of the faster Earth system components, simulated potential future biome patterns are unlike any during the past 800 ky, and likely will continue to change markedly for millennia if projected CO2 concentrations are realised.


Huntley, B., Allen, J. R., Forrest, M., Hickler, T., Ohlemüller, R., Singarayer, J. S., & Valdes, P. J. (in press). Global biome patterns of the Middle and Late Pleistocene. Journal of Biogeography,

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Mar 26, 2023
Online Publication Date May 24, 2023
Deposit Date Apr 3, 2023
Publicly Available Date Jun 13, 2023
Journal Journal of Biogeography
Print ISSN 0305-0270
Electronic ISSN 1365-2699
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed


Published Journal Article (18.8 Mb)

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Copyright Statement
© 2023 The Authors. Journal of Biogeography published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.<br /> <br /> This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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