Montcortès: a unique Mediterranean paleoecological record of the last 3000 years

The Pyrenean Lake Montcortès sediments hold the longest continuous and absolutely varve-dated record of the Mediterranean region, encompassing the last three millennia, from the Late Bronze Age to the present.

The high-resolution paleoecological reconstruction of the Montcortès sequence using pollen analysis has recently been published in the journal Quaternary Science Reviews.

The resolution of the Montocortès reconstruction is bidecadal, on average, but some periods have been resolved at quasidecadal (Middle Ages) and subdecadal (Modern Age to present) resolutions. The study is focused on the timing of anthropization and the further development of vegetation under climatic and anthropogenic drivers until the shaping of present landscapes. An additional advantage of Montcortes is that the local history of the Pallars region, where the lake is located, is well documented and can be easily correlated with the paleoecological record.

Contrary to former interpretations of general landscape anthropization of the Pyrenees during the Middle Ages, the Montcortès catchment was irreversibly transformed by anthropic activities at the beginning of the Iron Age (ca. 750-650 BCE). From this point, the catchment underwent successive transformations due to varied human uses (fire, grazing, cereal cultivation, weed/ruderal plant expansions, hemp cultivation/retting), which have been related to the different cultural phases and sociopolitical changes documented in the local historical records.

The Montcortès record has been compared with other records at local (Pyrenees), regional (Iberian Peninsula) and biome (Mediterranean) scales. Locally and regionally, anthropization times and further ecological trends showed significant heterogeneity according to elevation, biogeographical patterns and cultural trends. At the Mediterranean level, the Montcortèss record emerges as a unique sequence for the western sector of this biome that should be complemented with similar archives from the central and eastern Mediterranean.


Rull, V., Vegas-Vilarrúbia, T., Corella, J.P., Trapote, M.C., Montoya, E., Valero-Garcés, B. 2021. A unique Pyrenean varved record provides a detailed reconstruction of Mediterranean vegetation and land-use dynamics over the last three millennia. Quaternary Science Reviews, 268: 107128.

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Posted in My publications, Research papers

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