Early to late Holocene vegetation and fire dynamics at the treeline in the Maritime Alps

Finsinger, Walter; Vanel, Quentin; Ribolini, Adriano; Tinner, Willy (2021). Early to late Holocene vegetation and fire dynamics at the treeline in the Maritime Alps. Vegetation History and Archaeobotany, 30(4), pp. 507-524. Springer 10.1007/s00334-020-00795-x

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We used pollen, plant macrofossil, and charcoal records to investigate local long-term timberline shifts and changes in vegetation composition in relation to fire activity at the modern upper forest limit (ca. 2,000 m a.s.l.) in the Mont Bégo area, Maritime Alps of France and Italy. The area is an important place for Alpine archaeology because it has thousands rock-art carvings whose age cannot be directly assessed. Our new record confirms the occurrence of distinct land use phases (7,450–7,150, 6,200–4,900, and 4,250–3,700 cal BP), as suggested by earlier studies of rock art typology. Moreover, the vegetation reconstruction from macrofossils, with co-dominance of Pinus and Betula, suggests that early Holocene conditions were moister than in drier inner Alpine valleys, where Larix decidua played a more important role, both in the past as well as in modern timberline forests. After 8,000 cal BP, the timberline shifted upwards and mixed Abies alba and Pinus cembra stands established around the study site. These fire sensitive trees were finally replaced during the Bronze Age (around 4,000 cal BP) by L. decidua, which still dominates the subalpine woodlands in the area today. Our study supports the notion that while the range of A. alba has been reduced at the colder end of its natural distribution, that of L. decidua has been widened by land use changes and fire disturbances to create high alpine wood pastures.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)

Division/Institute:

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:

Tinner, Willy

Subjects:

500 Science > 580 Plants (Botany)

ISSN:

0939-6314

Publisher:

Springer

Language:

English

Submitter:

Peter Alfred von Ballmoos-Haas

Date Deposited:

13 Jan 2022 11:12

Last Modified:

13 Jan 2022 11:12

Publisher DOI:

10.1007/s00334-020-00795-x

Uncontrolled Keywords:

vegetation dynamics; mountain ecosystems; treeline ecotone; land use phases; wood pasture; fires

BORIS DOI:

10.48350/162363

URI:

https://boris.unibe.ch/id/eprint/162363

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