Environmental history and vegetation dynamics in response to climate variations and human pressure during the Holocene in Bassa Nera, Central Pyrenees

Publication date: 1 August 2017
Source:Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, Volume 479
Author(s): Sandra Garcés-Pastor, Núria Cañellas-Boltà, Albert Pèlachs, Joan-Manuel Soriano, Ramon Pérez-Obiol, Aaron Pérez-Haase, Miguel-Angel Calero, Oriol Andreu, Nil Escolà, Teresa Vegas-Vilarrúbia
With the aims of investigating the causes of environmental changes in high mountain ecosystems during the Holocene in relation to climate forcings and identifying thresholds for vegetation community shifts, we performed a multi-proxy palaeoecological reconstruction based on two sediment cores from Bassa Nera, a lentic system located close to the montane–subalpine ecotone in the Central Pyrenees. Using pollen, plant macroremains, charcoal, chemical elements and loss-on-ignition at centennial to decadal resolution, we reconstructed the vegetation and lacustrine dynamics during the last 10,000years. A montane pollen ratio was used as a palaeoecological indicator to track altitudinal shifts in high mountain vegetation, which was compared to the ice-rafted debris index (IRD) as a proxy for summarizing the climatic influence of the North Atlantic Circulation. Our results show upward shifts of deciduous forest and its presence in Bassa Nera from the onset of the Holocene until 4200calyrBP, when it was replaced by coniferous taxa. The montane ratio showed a link between vegetation and North Atlantic influence, while changes in Sphagnum macroremains and aquatic taxa allowed description of local ontogenic changes from the initial pond to the present peatland. The loss-on-ignition record showed some flood events at Bassa Nera between 4500 and 3900calyrBP. The studied proxies allowed inferences concerning anthropic pressure in the catchment through grazing activities by 7300calyrBP and the appearance of cereal agriculture around 5190calyrBP. The highest human pressure occurred in the late Bronze Age, Roman Period and Middle Ages.

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