High-mountain forest resilience

Some high-elevation Pyrenean forests remained virtually pristine during the last 4000 years

Palynological analysis of the last ca. 4300 cal yr BP using a sediment core taken from high mountain (ca. 1900 m elevation) Lake Sant Maurici sediments (southern-central Pyrenees) showed remarkable vegetation constancy during the Late Quaternary.

During the studied period, the vegetation around the lake was dominated by pine (Pinus) forests with birch (Betula), oak (Quercus) and hazel (Corylus) trees, as is the case today.

The composition of these forests and the abundance of their components remained quite stable, despite the occurrence of temperature and moisture shifts.

The degree of human disturbance, notably that of pastoralism and cereal cultivation by scattered and temporary settlements, was very low and had little or no effect on the dominant forests.

This situation contrasts with most high-elevation (subalpine and alpine) environments of the central Pyrenees that were massively anthropized during the Middle Ages.

Past records of this type may allow the estimation of natural and anthropogenic thresholds for irreversible forest changes, which would be useful for conservation purposes.

Reference

Rull, V., Cañellas-Boltà, N. & Vegas-Vilarrúbia, T. 2021. Late-Holocene forest resilience in the central Pyrenean highlands, as deduced from pollen analysis of Lake Sant Maurici sediments. The Holocene (preprint available at PaleorXiv, doi 10.31233/osf.io/mnp3e)

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Posted in My publications, Research papers

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