Elizabeth H Reed's Lab
Featured research (5)
The World Heritage Naracoorte Caves in southeastern South Australia are important palaeontological sites known primarily for their diverse vertebrate fossils. Some of the caves also contain well-pre- served Quaternary plant macrofossils, but little palaeobotanical research has been undertaken to date. Here, we describe the angiosperm plant taxa represented by macrofossils of reproductive struc- tures that have been extracted from the Robertson Cave sediment deposit; this has an age range of 820–24,230years BP. We identified 29 angiosperm taxa representing 20 families. These represent some of the plant species that grew in the Naracoorte region during the Quaternary, and form a database for future plant identification and palaeovegetation reconstructions.
Fossil collections housed in museums are a rich source of data for palaeontologists; however, some early collections lack detailed contextual information. The Naracoorte Caves in South Australia contain World Heritage listed Quaternary vertebrate fossil accumulations , particularly those of large, extinct mammals. The first recorded collection of extinct Pleistocene large mammal fossils from Naracoorte was from Specimen Cave in 1908. Unfortunately, these fossils were collected without stratigraphic and contextual information and so lack the detail required to relate them and their provenance to new excavations in the cave. As a result, the scientific value of this fossil collection is greatly reduced. Here we report on our research into the history of fossil collecting in Specimen Cave and recover information on the stratigraphic provenance and age of the 1908 fossil collection. We analysed newspaper articles, reports, written correspondence and cave inscriptions. Our research confirmed that the 1908 collection originated from the same area as the modern excavation and revealed a history of exploration and excavation work within the cave. Our research also led to the discovery of a cave inscription that contains the name of William Reddan, an important historical figure of the Naracoorte Caves and the first person to report the Specimen Cave fossil material. These findings place the 1908 fossil collection within the current geochro-nological context for the site and greatly increase the scientific value of this important material.
Plant macrofossils are an important source for detailed vegetation reconstructions, often at the species level, which usually cannot be achieved with other plant material such as pollen and spores. However, the preservation quality of plant macrofossils is not well understood, especially in cave settings. Here, we assess the preservation quality of Quaternary plant macrofossils of Casuarinaceae, Astroloma humifusum, Banksia marginata and Eucalyptus species for Robertson Cave, in the World Heritage listed Naracoorte Caves. We conclude that the level of preservation varies considerably among taxa and plant organs, which can influence the vegetation reconstruction. Woody endocarps and fruits preserved better as macrofossils than leaves and flowers. The age of the sediment did not always impact the preservation quality, although in some cases it led to clear deterioration. The impact of fire was evident and possibly influenced the preservation potential of some taxa. Therefore, care must be taken when reconstructing vegetation from plant macrofossils as preservational changes and floristic change are sometimes difficult to separate.
The Australian Fossil Mammal Sites (Riversleigh/Naracoorte) World Heritage property preserves a unique window into the evolution of Australia’s mammalian faunas. Listed as a serial nomination in 1994, its extensive fossil deposits span much of the past 25 million years. Riversleigh in northwest Queensland records the early evolutionary history of most modern marsupial groups and is extraordinary for the diversity of species represented. Naracoorte Caves in the southeast of South Australia preserves a continuous record of biodiversity and environment over at least the past 530,000 years, including a record of megafauna extinction. The conservation status of the property is regarded as good and the overall trend is stable. Management is considered mostly effective for ongoing conservation of the values. Current threats to World Heritage values include illegal access, fire and fire suppression, agricultural effluents, tourism, excavation and lack of funding. Impacts from these threats are moderated by planning and management of site access, tourism and research activities. Overall, the impact from current threats is considered very low. Potential threats for the property include tourism, illegal access and climate change. This paper provides an overview of the World Heritage listing and values, geographical, cultural and historical setting of the Australian Fossil Mammal Sites. The current and potential threats to the conservation status of the property are reviewed and discussed.