Subantarctic flowering plants: pre-glacial survivors or post-glacial immigrants?

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Aim The aim here was to assess whether the present-day assemblage of subantarctic flowering plants is the result of a rapid post-Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) colonization or whether subantarctic flowering plants survived on the islands in glacial refugia throughout the LGM. Location The circumpolar subantarctic region, comprising six remote islands and island groups between latitudes 46 degrees and 55 degrees S, including South Georgia in the South Atlantic Ocean, the Prince Edward Islands, Iles Crozet, Iles Kerguelen, the Heard Island group in the South Indian Ocean and Macquarie Island in the South Pacific Ocean. Methods Floristic affinities between the subantarctic islands were assessed by cluster analysis applied to an up-to-date dataset of the phanerogamic flora in order to test for the existence of provincialism within the subantarctic. A review of the primary literature on the palaeobotany, geology and glacial history of the subantarctic islands was carried out and supplemented with additional palaeobotanical data and new field observations from South Georgia, Ile de la Possession (Iles Crozet) and Iles Kerguelen. Results First, a strong regionalism was observed, with different floras characterizing the islands in each of the ocean basins, and endemic species being present in the South Indian Ocean and South Pacific Ocean provinces. Second, the majority of the plant species were present at the onset of accumulation of post-glacial organic sediment and there is no evidence for the natural arrival of new immigrants during the subsequent period. Third, a review of geomorphological data suggested that the ice cover was incomplete during the LGM on the majority of the islands, and ice-free biological refugia were probably present even on the most glaciated islands. Main conclusions Several independent lines of evidence favour the survival of a native subantarctic phanerogamic flora in local refugia during the LGM rather than a post-LGM colonization from more distant temperate landmasses in the Southern Hemisphere.


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Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Geology


  • subantarctic islands, regionalism, pre-LGM survivors, post-glacial immigration, flora, palaeobotany, phanerogamic, LGM ice cover, glacial refugia, Endemism
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)582-592
JournalJournal of Biogeography
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2010
Publication categoryResearch
Externally publishedYes