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This paper documents the first 10,000 year old plant macrofossil record of vegetation changes on the central island of Santa Cruz, providing information on Sphagnum bog vegetation patterns, local extinction of key taxa, and temporal successions in the Galápagos humid highlands. Vegetation change is reconstructed through examination of Holocene sedimentary sequences obtained from three Sphagnum bogs located within volcanic caldera forming the high elevation central ridge system of Santa Cruz Island. Results indicate that these specialized Sphagnum bog ecosystems are dynamic and have undergone considerable changes in vegetation composition, transitioning from diverse hygrophilous herbs and submerged aquatic ecosystems to drier Sphagnum/. Pteridium bog systems, during the last 10,000 cal yr BP. Additionally a new aquatic genus previously undocumented on the islands, Elatine, was discovered at two of the study sites, but it is now extinct on the archipelago. Some of the observed vegetation successions may have been driven by climatic shifts occurring within the eastern equatorial Pacific (EEP). Other drivers including anthropogenic change are also considered significant over the last hundred years, placing strain on this naturally dynamic system. This study helps reveal patterns of change in the humid highlands over the last 10,000 cal yr BP regarding vegetation variability, climatic shifts, the historical influence of fire, tortoise disturbance, and recent anthropogenic impacts on the island. © 2012 Elsevier Ltd.

Original publication




Journal article


Quaternary Science Reviews

Publication Date





60 - 74