Palynological insights into global change impacts on Arctic vegetation, fire, and pollution recorded in Central Greenland ice

Brügger, Sandra O.; Gobet, Erika; Blunier, Thomas; Morales-Molino, César; Lotter, André F.; Fischer, Hubertus; Schwikowski, Margit; Tinner, Willy (2019). Palynological insights into global change impacts on Arctic vegetation, fire, and pollution recorded in Central Greenland ice. The Holocene, 29(7), pp. 1189-1197. Sage 10.1177/0959683619838039

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Arctic environments may respond very sensitively to ongoing global change, as observed during the past decades for Arctic vegetation. Only little is known about the broad-scale impacts of early and mid 20th-century industrialization and climate change on remote Arctic environments. Palynological analyses of Greenland ice cores may provide invaluable insights into the long-term vegetation, fire, and pollution dynamics in the Arctic region. We present the first palynological record from a Central Greenland ice core (Summit Eurocore ’89, 72°35’N, 37°38’W; the location of Greenland Ice Core Project GRIP) that provides novel high-resolution microfossil data on Arctic environments spanning AD 1730–1989. Our data suggest an expansion of birch woodlands after AD 1850 that was abruptly interrupted at the onset of the 20th century despite favorable climatic conditions. We therefore attribute this Betula woodland decline during the 20th century to anthropogenic activities such as sheep herding and wood collection in the sub-Arctic. First signs of coal burning activities around AD 1900 coincide with the onset of Arctic coal mining. The use of coal and fire activity increased steadily until AD 1989 resulting in microscopic-size pollution of the ice sheet. We conclude that human impact during the 20th century strongly affected (sub)-Arctic environments. Moreover, ecosystems have changed through the spread of adventive plant species (e.g. Ranunculus acris, Rumex) and the destruction of sparse native woodlands. We show for the first time that optical palynology allows paleoecological reconstructions in extremely remote sites >500 km from potential sources, if adequate methods are used.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)

Division/Institute:

08 Faculty of Science > Physics Institute > Climate and Environmental Physics
10 Strategic Research Centers > Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research (OCCR)
08 Faculty of Science > Department of Biology > Institute of Plant Sciences (IPS) > Palaeoecology
08 Faculty of Science > Department of Biology > Institute of Plant Sciences (IPS)

UniBE Contributor:

Brügger, Sandra Olivia; Gobet, Erika; Morales del Molino, Cesar; Lotter, André Franz; Fischer, Hubertus; Schwikowski, Margit and Tinner, Willy

Subjects:

500 Science > 580 Plants (Botany)
500 Science > 530 Physics

ISSN:

0959-6836

Publisher:

Sage

Language:

English

Submitter:

Peter Alfred von Ballmoos-Haas

Date Deposited:

09 May 2019 16:56

Last Modified:

26 Jun 2019 08:23

Publisher DOI:

10.1177/0959683619838039

Uncontrolled Keywords:

Betula woodlands, coal mining, microscopic charcoal, paleoecology, pollen, SCP (spheroidal carbonaceous particles)

BORIS DOI:

10.7892/boris.129386

URI:

https://boris.unibe.ch/id/eprint/129386

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