, Volume 19, Issue 1-2, pp 53-61

A synopsis of climatic and vegetational change in Southeast Asia

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Abstract

Tropical rain forest in Southeast Asia has developed within an extensive archipelago during the past 65 million years or more. During the Miocene (beginning 25 million years BP), rain forest extended much further north (to southern China and Japan); since that time it has contracted. During the Pleistocene (beginning 2.0 million years BP), development of continental glaciers at high latitudes was associated in Southeast Asia with lowered sea level, cooler temperatures, and modified rainfall patterns. Fossil pollen records demonstrate that Southeast Asian vegetation during the last glacial maximum (ca. 18 000 BP) differed substantially from that of today, with an increase in the extent of montane vegetation and savannah and a decline in rain forest. These data show that the distribution and extent of rain forest in Southeast Asia has historically been quite sensitive to climatic change.