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Changing Sea Levels and the Future of Coastal Vegetation in California; Implications of Local Extinction at the La Brea Tar Pits During the Late Pleistocene

Authors: Jessie George*, UCLA, Glen M MacDonald, Department of Geography, UCLA
Topics: Biogeography, Climatology and Meteorology, Geomorphology
Keywords: Biogeography, Climatology, Sea Level, Plants, Local Extinction, Range Shift, Coastal Clouds
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Rising global temperatures are already affecting species distribution across the globe, impacting local and regional biodiversity, species composition of habitats, and threatening ecosystem services. Additional obstacles influenced by temperature rise, such as shifting atmospheric and oceanic currents can impact species survival in patterns that don’t fit the upward shifts in latitude and altitude expected with temperature rise alone. Effective mitigation of current and future ecosystem transformations requires an understanding of climate factors playing out on a local-scale which then can be expanded for a more comprehensive understanding of what shifts to expect regionally. This research looks at timing of species disappearances in the Los Angeles Basin using accelerator mass spectrometry dates of asphalt preserved plants from the La Brea Tar Pits, along with sea level data, and modern records of low-lying coastal clouds in Southern California. Preliminary findings suggest parallels between the disappearance of predominantly coastal species like Bishop pine (Pinus muricata) and challenges facing fog dependent coastal species today. Our findings indicate that changes in sea level during MIS 3 and resulting shifts in coastal currents and low-lying coastal cloud timing likely played a large role in the local extinction of multiple plant species in what is today Los Angeles. This research offers valuable insights into the current threats facing California coastal vegetation species today.

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