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Beringia
Beringia
is defined today as the land and maritime area bounded on the west by the Lena River
Lena River
in Russia; on the east by the Mackenzie River in Canada; on the north by 72 degrees north latitude in the Chukchi Sea; and on the south by the tip of the Kamchatka Peninsula.[1] It includes the Chukchi Sea, the Bering Sea, the Bering Strait, the Chukchi and Kamchatka Peninsulas in Russia
Russia
as well as Alaska
Alaska
in the United States. The area includes land lying on the North American Plate
North American Plate
and Siberian land east of the Chersky Range. Historically, it formed a land bridge that was up to 1,000 kilometres (620 miles) wide at its greatest extent and which covered an area as large as British Columbia
British Columbia
and Alberta
Alberta
together,[2] totaling approximately 1,600,000 square kilometres (620,000 square miles). Today, the only land that is visible from the central part of the Bering land bridge are the Diomede Islands, the Pribilof Islands
Pribilof Islands
of St. Paul and St. George, St. Lawrence Island, and King Island.[1] The term Beringia
Beringia
was coined by the Swedish botanist Eric Hultén in 1937.[3] During the ice ages, Beringia, like most of Siberia
Siberia
and all of North and Northeast China, was not glaciated because snowfall was very light.[4] It was a grassland steppe, including the land bridge, that stretched for hundreds of kilometres into the continents on either side. It is believed that a small human population of at most a few thousand arrived in Beringia
Beringia
from eastern Siberia
Siberia
during the Last Glacial Maximum before expanding into the settlement of the Americas sometime after 16,500 years BP. This would have occurred as the American glaciers blocking the way southward melted,[5][6][7][8][9] but before the bridge was covered by the sea about 11,000 years BP.[10][11] Before European colonization, Beringia
Beringia
was inhabited by the Yupik peoples on both sides of the straits. This culture remains in the region today along with others. In 2012, the governments of Russia
Russia
and the United States
United States
announced a plan to formally establish "a transboundary area of shared Beringian heritage". Among other things this agreement would establish close ties between the Bering Land Bridge National Preserve and the Cape Krusenstern National Monument
Cape Krusenstern National Monument
in the United States
United States
and Beringia National Park
Beringia National Park
in Russia.[12]

Contents

1 Geography 2 Beringian refugium 3 Human habitation 4 Previous connections 5 See also 6 References 7 Further reading 8 External links

Geography[edit]

Bering land bridge – Wisconsin glaciation

Bering land bridge region – deglaciation period

Bering land bridge region – present day

The remains of Late Pleistocene mammals that had been discovered on the Aleutians
Aleutians
and islands in the Bering Sea
Bering Sea
at the close of the nineteenth century indicated that a past land connection might lie beneath the shallow waters between Alaska
Alaska
and Chukotka. The underlying mechanism was first thought to be tectonics, but by 1930 changes in the icemass balance, leading to global sea-level fluctuations, was viewed as the cause of the Bering Land Bridge.[13][14] In 1937, Eric Hultén proposed that around the Aleutians
Aleutians
and the Bering Strait region were tundra plants that had originally dispersed from a now-submerged plain between Alaska
Alaska
and Chukotka, which he named Beringia
Beringia
after Vitus Bering
Vitus Bering
who had sailed into the strait in 1728.[15][14] The American arctic geologist David Hopkins redefined Beringia
Beringia
to include portions of Alaska
Alaska
and Northeast Asia. Beringia was later regarded as extending from the Verkhoyansk Mountains
Verkhoyansk Mountains
in the west to the Mackenzie River
Mackenzie River
in the east.[14] The distribution of plants in the genera Erythranthe
Erythranthe
and Pinus
Pinus
are good examples of this as genera members are found in Asia
Asia
and the Americas with a high degree of similarity.[16][17] During the Pleistocene
Pleistocene
epoch, global cooling led periodically to the expansion of glaciers and lowering of sea levels. This created land connections in various regions around the globe.[18] Today, the average water depth of the Bering Strait
Bering Strait
is 40–50 m (130–160 ft), therefore the land bridge opened when the sea level dropped more than 50 m (160 ft) below the current level.[19][20] A reconstruction of the sea-level history of the region indicated that a seaway existed from c.  135,000 – c.  70,000 BP, a land bridge from c.  70,000 – c.  60,000 BP, intermittent connection from c.  60,000 – c.  30,000 BP, a land bridge from c.  30,000 – c.  11,000 BP, followed by a Holocene
Holocene
sea-level rise that reopened the strait.[21][22] Post-glacial rebound
Post-glacial rebound
has continued to raise some sections of coast. During the last glacial period, enough of the earth's water became frozen in the great ice sheets covering North America
North America
and Europe
Europe
to cause a drop in sea levels. For thousands of years the sea floors of many interglacial shallow seas were exposed, including those of the Bering Strait, the Chukchi Sea
Chukchi Sea
to the north, and the Bering Sea
Bering Sea
to the south. Other land bridges around the world have emerged and disappeared in the same way. Around 14,000 years ago, mainland Australia
Australia
was linked to both New Guinea
New Guinea
and Tasmania, the British Isles became an extension of continental Europe
Europe
via the dry beds of the English Channel
English Channel
and North Sea, and the dry bed of the South China Sea linked Sumatra, Java, and Borneo
Borneo
to Indochina. Beringian refugium[edit]

Beringia
Beringia
precipitation 22,000 years ago

See also: Mammoth steppe
Mammoth steppe
and Asa_Gray § The "Asa Gray disjunction" The last glacial period, commonly referred to as the "Ice Age", spanned 125,000[23]–14,500 YBP[24] and was the most recent glacial period within the current ice age, which occurred during the last years of the Pleistocene
Pleistocene
era.[23] The Ice Age reached its peak during the Last Glacial Maximum, when ice sheets began advancing from 33,000  YBP and reached their maximum limits 26,500 YBP. Deglaciation
Deglaciation
commenced in the Northern Hemisphere approximately 19,000  YBP and in Antarctica approximately 14,500 years YBP, which is consistent with evidence that glacial meltwater was the primary source for an abrupt rise in sea level 14,500 YBP[24] and the bridge was finally inundated around 11,000 YBP.[11] The fossil evidence from many continents points to the extinction of large animals, termed Pleistocene
Pleistocene
megafauna, near the end of the last glaciation.[25] During the Ice Age a vast, cold and dry Mammoth steppe
Mammoth steppe
stretched from the arctic islands southwards to China, and from Spain eastwards across Eurasia and over the Bering land bridge into Alaska
Alaska
and the Yukon
Yukon
where it was blocked by the Wisconsin glaciation. The land bridge existed because sea-levels were lower because more of the planet's water than today was locked up in glaciers. Therefore, the flora and fauna of Beringia
Beringia
were more related to those of Eurasia rather than North America. Beringia
Beringia
received more moisture and intermittent maritime cloud cover from the north Pacific Ocean than the rest of the Mammoth
Mammoth
steppe, including the dry environments on either side of it. This moisture supported a shrub-tundra habitat that provided a ecological refugium for plants and animals.[26][27] In East Beringia
Beringia
35,000 YBP, the northern arctic areas experienced temperatures 1.5 C degrees warmer than today but the southern sub-Arctic regions were 2 C degrees cooler. During the LGM 22,000 YBP the average summer temperature was 3–5 C degrees cooler than today, with variations of 2.9 C degrees cooler on the Seward Peninsula
Seward Peninsula
to 7.5 C cooler in the Yukon.[28] In the driest and coldest periods of the Late Pleistocene, and possibly during the entire Pleistocene, moisture occurred along a north-south gradient with the south receiving the most cloud cover and moisture due to the air-flow from the North Pacific.[27] In the Late Pleistocene, Beringia
Beringia
was a mosaic of biological communities.[29][26][30] Commencing from c. 57,000 BP (MIS 3), steppe–tundra vegetation dominated large parts of Beringia
Beringia
with a rich diversity of grasses and herbs.[29][26][31] There were patches of shrub tundra with isolated refugia of larch (Larix) and spruce (Picea) forests with birch (Betula) and alder (Alnus) trees.[29][30][31][32] It has been proposed that the largest and most diverse megafaunal community residing in Beringia
Beringia
at this time could only have been sustained in a highly diverse and productive environment.[33] Analysis at Chukotka on the Siberian edge of the land bridge indicated that from c. 57,000 – c. 15,000 BP (MIS 3 to MIS 2) the environment was wetter and colder than the steppe–tundra to the east and west, with warming in parts of Beringia
Beringia
from c. 15,000 BP.[34] These changes provided the most likely explanation for mammal migrations after c. 15,000 BP, as the warming provided increased forage for browsers and mixed feeders.[35] Beringia
Beringia
did not block the movement of most dry steppe-adapted large species such as saiga antelope, woolly mammoth, and caballid horses. However, from the west the woolly rhino went no further east than the Anadyr River, and from the east North American camels, the American kiang-like equids, the short-faced bear, bonnet-horned muskoxen, and badger did not travel west. At the beginning of the Holocene, some mesic habitat-adapted species left the refugium and spread westward into what had become tundra-vegetated northern Asia
Asia
and eastward into northern North America.[27] The latest emergence of the land bridge was c. 70,000 years ago. However, from c. 24,000 – c. 13,000 BP the Laurentide ice sheet fused with the Cordilleran ice sheet, which blocked gene flow between Beringia
Beringia
(and Eurasia) and continental North America.[36][37][38] The Yukon
Yukon
corridor opened between the receding ice sheets c. 13,000 BP, and this once again allowed gene flow between Eurasia and continental North America
North America
until the land bridge was finally closed by rising sea levels c. 10,000 BP.[39] During the Holocene, many mesic-adapted species left the refugium and spread eastward and westward, while at the same time the forest-adapted species spread with the forests up from the south. The arid adapted species were reduced to minor habitats or became extinct.[27] Beringia
Beringia
constantly transformed its ecosystem as the changing climate affected the environment, determining which plants and animals were able to survive. The land mass could be a barrier as well as a bridge: during colder periods, glaciers advanced and precipitation levels dropped. During warmer intervals, clouds, rain and snow altered soils and drainage patterns. Fossil
Fossil
remains show that spruce, birch and poplar once grew beyond their northernmost range today, indicating that there were periods when the climate was warmer and wetter. The environmental conditions were not homogenous in Beringia. Recent stable isotope studies of woolly mammoth bone collagen demonstrate that western Beringia
Beringia
(Siberia) was colder and drier than eastern Beringia
Beringia
( Alaska
Alaska
and Yukon), which was more ecologically diverse.[40] Mastodons, which depended on shrubs for food, were uncommon in the open dry tundra landscape characteristic of Beringia
Beringia
during the colder periods. In this tundra, mammoths flourished instead. The extinct pine species Pinus
Pinus
matthewsii has been described from Pliocene sediments in the Yukon
Yukon
areas of the refugium.[41] The paleo-environment changed across time.[42] Below is a gallery of some of the plants that inhabited eastern Beringia
Beringia
before the beginning of the Holocene.

Gallery - plants of eastern Beringia
Beringia
( Alaska
Alaska
and the Yukon) c. 15,000 – c. 11,500 BP

Artemisia[42][43]

Cyperaceae
Cyperaceae
(sedges)[42][43]

Gramineae
Gramineae
(grasses)[42][43]

Salix
Salix
(willow)[42][43]

Human habitation[edit] Main articles: Settlement of the Americas
Settlement of the Americas
and Paleo-Indians

Genetic settlement of Beringia

The Bering land bridge is a postulated route of human migration to the Americas from Asia
Asia
about 20,000 years ago.[44] An open corridor through the ice-covered North American Arctic was too barren to support human migrations before around 12,600 BP.[45][46] A study has indicated that the genetic imprints of only 70 of all the individuals who settled and traveled the land bridge into North America are visible in modern descendants. This genetic bottleneck finding is an example of the founder effect and does not imply that only 70 individuals crossed into North America
North America
at the time; rather, the genetic material of these individuals became amplified in North America following isolation from other Asian populations.[47] Seagoing coastal settlers may also have crossed much earlier, but there is no scientific consensus on this point, and the coastal sites that would offer further information now lie submerged in up to a hundred metres of water offshore. Land animals migrated through Beringia
Beringia
as well, introducing to North America
North America
species that had evolved in Asia, like mammals such as proboscideans and American lions, which evolved into now-extinct endemic North American species. Meanwhile, equids and camelids that had evolved in North America
North America
(and later became extinct there) migrated into Asia
Asia
as well at this time. A study published in 2007 suggests that the Bering land bridge migration occurred 12,000 BP, that every human who migrated across the land bridge came from Eastern Siberia, and that every indigenous person directly descends from that same group of Eastern Siberian migrants. The authors note that a "[u]nique genetic variant widespread in natives across both continents suggests that the first humans in the Americas came in a single migration or multiple waves from a single source, not in waves of migrations from different sources".[5] Previous connections[edit] Biogeographical evidence demonstrates previous connections between North America
North America
and Asia. Similar dinosaur fossils occur both in Asia and in North America. For instance the dinosaur Saurolophus
Saurolophus
was found in both Mongolia and western North America. Relatives of Troodon, Triceratops, and even Tyrannosaurus
Tyrannosaurus
rex all came from Asia. Fossils in China
China
demonstrate a migration of Asian mammals into North America around 55 million years ago. By 20 million years ago, evidence in North America
North America
shows a further interchange of mammalian species. Some, like the ancient saber-toothed cats, have a recurring geographical range: Europe, Africa, Asia, and North America. The only way they could reach the New World
New World
was by the Bering land bridge. Had this bridge not existed at that time, the fauna of the world would be very different. Researchers have started to use molecular phylogenetics to trace the history of faunal exchange and diversification, through the genetic history of parasites and pathogens of North American ungulates. An international Beringian Coevolution Project is collaborating to provide material to assess the pattern and timing of faunal exchange and the potential impact of past climatic events on differentiation. See also[edit]

Ancient Beringian Bering Strait
Bering Strait
crossing Bluefish Caves Little John (archeological site) Geologic time scale Last glacial period Pleistocene Yukon
Yukon
Beringia
Beringia
Interpretive Centre

References[edit]

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Founders: A Population Genetic Portrait of the Peopling of the Americas". PLoS Biology. 3 (6): e193. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0030193. PMC 1131883 . PMID 15898833. 

Further reading[edit]

Fagundes, Nelson J.R.; Kanitz, Ricardo; Eckert, Roberta; Valls, Ana C.S.; Bogo, Mauricio R.; Salzano, Francisco M.; Smith, David Glenn; Silva Jr., Wilson A.; et al. (3 March 2008). "Mitochondrial Population Genomics Supports a Single Pre-Clovis Origin with a Coastal Route for the Peopling of the Americas" (PDF). American Journal of Human Genetics. 82 (3): 583–592. doi:10.1016/j.ajhg.2007.11.013. PMC 2427228 . PMID 18313026.  Hoffecker, John F.; Elias, Scott A. (2007). Human ecology of Beringia. Columbia University Press. ISBN 978-0-231-13060-8. Retrieved 2016-04-10.  Hoffecker, JF; Elias, SA; O'Rourke, DH (2014). "Anthropology. Out of Beringia?". Science. 343 (6174): 979–80. Bibcode:2014Sci...343..979H. doi:10.1126/science.1250768. PMID 24578571.  Hey, Jody (2005). "On the Number of New World
New World
Founders: A Population Genetic Portrait of the Peopling of the Americas". PLoS Biology. 3 (6): e193. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0030193. PMC 1131883 . PMID 15898833.  Pielou, E. C., After the Ice Age: The Return of Life to Glaciated North America
North America
(Chicago: University of Chicago Press) 1992 ISBN 978-0-226-66812-3 Pringle, Heather (2014). "Welcome to Beringia". Science. 343 (6174): 961–3. doi:10.1126/science.343.6174.961. PMID 24578560. 

External links[edit]

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Bering Land Bridge.

Shared Beringian Heritage Program International National Park in the Bering Strait Bering Land Bridge National Preserve D.K. Jordan, "Prehistoric Beringia" Paleoenvironmental atlas of Beringia: includes animation showing the gradual disappearance of the Bering land bridge Yukon
Yukon
Beringia
Beringia
Interpretive Centre Paleoenvironments and Glaciation in Beringia Study suggests 20000 year

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