Treeline Fluctuations Recorded for 12,500 Years by Soil Profiles, Pollen, and Plant Macrofossils in the Central Swiss Alps

Tinner, Willy; Ammann, Brigitta; Germann, Peter (1996). Treeline Fluctuations Recorded for 12,500 Years by Soil Profiles, Pollen, and Plant Macrofossils in the Central Swiss Alps. Arctic and Alpine Research, 28(2), pp. 131-147. INSTAAR, University of Colorado 10.2307/1551753

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Past treelines can rarely be recorded by pollen percentages alone, but pollen concentration, pollen influx, and plant macrofossils (including stomata of conifers) are more reliable indicators. In addition, ancient forest soils above today's treeline may trace the maximum upper expansion of the forest since the last glaciation. Charcoal in such soil profiles may be radiocarbon dated. Our example from the Central Swiss Alps at the Alpe d'Essertse consists of a plant-macrofossil diagram and pollen diagrams of the pond Gouille Rion at 2343 m a.s.l. and a sequence of soil profiles from 1780 m to 2600 m a.s.l. The area around the pond was forested with LariJc decidua and Pinus cembra between 9500 and 3600 BP. After 4700 BP the forest became more open and Juniperus nana and Alnus viridis expanded (together with Picea abies in the subalpine forest). Between 1700 and 900 BP the Juniperus nana and Alnus viridis scrubs declined while meadows and pastures took over, so that the pond Gouille Rion was definitively above timber­ line. The highest Holocene treeline was at 2400 to 2450 m a.s.l. (i.e. 50 to 100 m higher than the uppermost single specimen of Pinus cembra today) between 9000 and 4700 BP, but it is not yet dated in more detail. The highest charcoal of Pinus cembra at 2380 m a.s.l. has a radiocarbon date of 6010 ± 70 BP. Around 6900 BP a strong climatic deterioration caused an opening of timberline forest. First indicators of anthropogenic influence occurred at 4700 BP, when the forest limit started to move down. The lowering of timberline after 4700 BP was probably due to combined effects of human and climatic impact.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)

Division/Institute:

08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography
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; Ammann, Brigitta and Germann, Peter

Subjects:

900 History > 910 Geography & travel
500 Science > 580 Plants (Botany)

ISSN:

0004-0851

Publisher:

INSTAAR, University of Colorado

Language:

English

Submitter:

Peter Alfred von Ballmoos-Haas

Date Deposited:

11 Mar 2016 12:37

Last Modified:

11 Mar 2016 12:37

Publisher DOI:

10.2307/1551753

BORIS DOI:

10.7892/boris.77680

URI:

https://boris.unibe.ch/id/eprint/77680

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