A study of late Holocene local vegetation dynamics and responses to land use changes in an ancient charcoal making woodland in the central Pyrenees (Ariège, France), using pedoanthracology

Mélanie Saulnier, Raquel Cunill Artigas, Léonel Fouédjeu Foumou, Sandrine Buscaino, Jean Paul Métailié, Didier Galop, Vanessa Py-Saragaglia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearch

Abstract

© 2019, Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature. Human activities have profoundly transformed mountain woodland landscapes, particularly in the Pyrenees where they have intensified and diversified since the Bronze Age. Quantification of the role played by past practices with regard to woodland cover is critical for accurate assessment of how ongoing global environmental change may affect its dynamics in the future. A local study was made of charcoal remains from an ancient charcoal-making woodland (ca. 30 ha), the forêt de Bernadouze, located on a north-facing slope in the Vicdessos valley in the French central Pyrenees. This valley is well known as having had a long history of human influence related to pastoralism, iron ore mining and smelting. A total of 1,695 charcoal pieces from soils in three sampling pits were extracted, identified, quantified and dated in order to identify tree canopy openings and patterns of change in the woodland driven by past human uses. The results provide new and original insights regarding 1, the past higher biodiversity and the ancient character of the forêt de Bernadouze, 2, the dynamics and history of the main trees and 3, successive phases of human activity. We show that the current woodland has resulted from several millennia of human activities such as pasturing and use of the wood for making charcoal. From the Bronze Age, humans have progressively transformed a natural fir-dominated woodland into a managed beech-dominated one, and caused the elimination of Taxus baccata L. (yew).
Original languageEnglish
JournalVegetation History and Archaeobotany
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2019

Keywords

  • Central Pyrenees
  • Land use changes
  • Late Holocene
  • Local scale study
  • Soil charcoal analysis
  • Vegetation dynamics

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