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Process-explicit models reveal pathway to extinction for woolly mammoth using pattern-oriented validation


Fordham, DA and Brown, SC and Akcakaya, HR and Brook, BW and Haythorne, S and Manica, A and Shoemaker, KT and Austin, JJ and Blonder, B and Pilowsky, J and Rahbek, C and Nogues-Bravo, D, Process-explicit models reveal pathway to extinction for woolly mammoth using pattern-oriented validation, Ecology Letters, 25, (1) pp. 125-137. ISSN 1461-023X (2022) [Refereed Article]

Copyright Statement

2021 John Wiley & Sons Ltd

DOI: doi:10.1111/ele.13911


Pathways to extinction start long before the death of the last individual. However, causes of early stage population declines and the susceptibility of small residual populations to extirpation are typically studied in isolation. Using validated process-explicit models, we disentangle the ecological mechanisms and threats that were integral in the initial decline and later extinction of the woolly mammoth. We show that reconciling ancient DNA data on woolly mammoth population decline with fossil evidence of location and timing of extinction requires process-explicit models with specific demographic and niche constraints, and a constrained synergy of climatic change and human impacts. Validated models needed humans to hasten climate-driven population declines by many millennia, and to allow woolly mammoths to persist in mainland Arctic refugia until the mid-Holocene. Our results show that the role of humans in the extinction dynamics of woolly mammoth began well before the Holocene, exerting lasting effects on the spatial pattern and timing of its range-wide extinction.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:climate change, ecological process, extinction dynamics, mechanistic model, megafauna, metapopulation, Pleistocene-Holocene transition, population model, range dynamics, synergistic threats, mammoth
Research Division:Biological Sciences
Research Group:Other biological sciences
Research Field:Global change biology
Objective Division:Environmental Policy, Climate Change and Natural Hazards
Objective Group:Understanding climate change
Objective Field:Global effects of climate change (excl. Australia, New Zealand, Antarctica and the South Pacific) (excl. social impacts)
UTAS Author:Brook, BW (Professor Barry Brook)
ID Code:149046
Year Published:2022
Funding Support:Australian Research Council (CE170100015)
Web of Science® Times Cited:8
Deposited By:Plant Science
Deposited On:2022-03-03
Last Modified:2022-04-07

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