Holocene treeline changes on the south slope of the Pyrenees: A pedoanthracological analysis

Raquel Cunill, Joan Manuel Soriano, Marie Claude Bal, Albert Pèlachs, Ramon Pérez-Obiol

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

46 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The principal objective of this research is to determine the maximum elevation reached by the treeline, as well as its altitudinal variations and composition throughout the Holocene, in a high mountain zone of the Pyrenean range. The temporal intervals of pedoanthracological data begin in 11000 cal. b. p. with the oldest dated charcoal, permitting a study of the entire Holocene period with the capacity to analyze climatic and anthropic situations. This is the first study to apply analysis of soil charcoals to the meridional slope of the Pyrenees for this purpose, and also its first use in research on the Iberian Peninsula. Eight pedoanthracological sites were sampled in a transect from 2,000 to 2,600 m altitude, with an altitudinal resolution of 100 m. The spatial precision provided by this proxy allows us to show that the maximum extension of the upper forest line was 400 m above the current line. This suggests a complete change in the landscape of a zone that is now covered with pasture from 2,000 m to the peak (2,593 m). Although pre-Neolithic fires appear to have a primarily climatic component, the fire origins during and after this period are more complex and far from being explained by a single, unequivocal cause. © 2011 Springer-Verlag.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)373-384
JournalVegetation History and Archaeobotany
Volume21
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2012

Keywords

  • Fire
  • Holocene
  • Human impact
  • Pyrenees
  • Soil charcoal analysis
  • Treeline

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