Date of this Version
NATURE COMMUNICATIONS (2022) 13:3940 https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-022-31595-8
Biotic homogenization—increasing similarity of species composition among ecological communities—has been linked to anthropogenic processes operating over the last century. Fossil evidence, however, suggests that humans have had impacts on ecosystems for millennia. We quantify biotic homogenization of North American mammalian assemblages during the late Pleistocene through Holocene (~30,000 ybp to recent), a timespan encompassing increased evidence of humans on the landscape (~20,000–14,000 ybp). From ~10,000 ybp to recent, assemblages became significantly more homogenous (>100% increase in Jaccard similarity), a pattern that cannot be explained by changes in fossil record sampling. Homogenization was most pronounced among mammals larger than 1 kg and occurred in two phases. The first followed the megafaunal extinction at ~10,000 ybp. The second, more rapid phase began during human population growth and early agricultural intensification (~2,000–1,000 ybp). We show that North American ecosystems were homogenizing for millennia, extending human impacts back ~10,000 years.