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6. CONCLUSIONS An evaluation of the change in biodiversity of forest habitats through the Late Glacial transition to the present in five palaeoecological sites from highland valleys in New Guinea, where intensive agriculture is practised today, has shown that people have had a significant impact on forest community composition, function and diversity over many thousands of years. The palaeoecological record of vegetation change can provide a deeper time perspective on the relative vulnerability of any given vegetation community to external forces that may result in biodiversity change. Consideration of long-term (1000–100 000 years) as well as short-term (10–100 years) time-scales should be incorporated into biodiversity planning. The conserva- tion of relict forest communities most at risk from recent agricultural intensification will require an integrated approach between current land owners, government, conservation biologists and ecologists with an under- standing of long-term biodiversity change.

The author would like to thank Geoff Hope for the many years of inspirational discussion and support during his work in Papua New Guinea, and also Kathy Willis, Francis Mayle and Herman Behling for their helpful discussions around the theme of this paper. This was written while the author was supported by an ANU Fellowship.

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