Author

Jorja Vernon

Year

2017

Degree Name

BEnviSc Hons

Department

School of Earth & Environmental Science

Advisor(s)

Samuel Marx

Abstract

This research project aimed to expand upon knowledge of the recent paleoclimate of the alpine region of Kosciuszko National Park, as well as evaluate its response to human impacts. This was achieved through evaluating a series of sedimentary, geochemical and biological proxies that were extracted from a core obtained from Blue Lake, a remote alpine lake situated in the Snowy Mountains region. The results were utilised to reconstruct changes in erosion, organic productivity, fire regime and the biology of the lake over the 3,500-year history of the core. Proxy evidence suggested that the KNP would have initially experienced a relatively cool and wet period at the earliest stages of the cores history (approximately 3,500 cal. yr BP), followed by a gradual transition to a comparatively warm, dry period, until approximately 1,800 – 1,500 cal. yr BP. After the dry episode, it is suggested conditions may have become gradually wetter in the KNP alpine zone until the arrival of Europeans in Australia.

Most importantly, the most significant changes in the proxy data was evident following European settlement in Australia ( 1800 AD to present). This was interpreted to imply a substantial shift in the sedimentological, ecological and geochemical function of the environment after this time. The changes are proposed to provide evidence for several human activities which have taken place since this time, including grazing in the Snowy Mountains, as well as the establishment/expansion of industrial activities and agricultural practices in wider south-east Australia. Furthermore, it is suggested that the timing of these changes correspond closely with the 1°C global temperature rise since the advent of the Industrial revolution, therefore possibly implying a response to warmer conditions. In light of these findings, the results presented here are considered to server as a baseline record of the sensitivity of KNP alpine zone to change. Consequently, it is suggested that the alpine landscape is likely to undergo further significant change into the future.

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