Quantification of biotic responses to rapid climatic changes around the Younger Dryas — a synthesis

Ammann, Brigitta; Birks, H.J.B; Brooks, Stephen J; Eicher, Ulrich; von Grafenstein, Ulrich; Hofmann, Wolfgang; Lemdahl, Geoffrey; Schwander, Jakob; Tobolski, Kazimierz; Wick, Lucia (2000). Quantification of biotic responses to rapid climatic changes around the Younger Dryas — a synthesis. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, 159(3-4), pp. 313-347. Elsevier 10.1016/S0031-0182(00)00092-4

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To assess the presence or absence of lags in biotic responses to rapid climatic changes, we: (1) assume that the δ18O in biogenically precipitated carbonates record global or hemispheric climatic change at the beginning and at the end of the Younger Dryas without any lag at our two study sites of Gerzensee and Leysin, Switzerland; (2) derive a time scale by correlating the δ18O record from these two sites with the δ18O record of the GRIP ice core; (3) measure δ18O records in ostracods and molluscs to check the record in the bulk samples and to detect possible hydrological changes; (4) analyse at Gerzensee and Leysin as well as at two additional sites (that lack carbonates and hence a δ18O record) pollen, plant macrofossils, chironomids, beetles and other insects, and Cladocera; (5) estimate our sampling resolution using the GRIP time scale for the isotope stratigraphies and the biostratigraphies; and (6) summarise the major patterns of compositional change in the biostratigraphies by principal component analysis or correspondence analysis. We conclude that, at the major climatic shifts at the beginning and end of the Younger Dryas, hardly any biotic lags occur (within the sampling resolution of 8–30 years) and that upland vegetation responded as fast as aquatic invertebrates. We suggest that the minor climatic changes associated with the Gerzensee and Preboreal oscillations were weakly recorded in the biostratigraphies at the lowland site, but were more distinct at higher altitudes. Individualistic responses of plant and animal species to climatic change may reflect processes in individuals (e.g. productivity and phenology), in populations (e.g. population dynamics), in spatial distributions (e.g. migrations), and in ecosystems (e.g. trophic state). We suggest that biotic responses may be telescoped together into relatively short periods (50 to 150 years), perhaps disrupting functional interactions among species and thus destabilising ecosystems.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


08 Faculty of Science > Physics Institute > Climate and Environmental Physics
08 Faculty of Science > Physics Institute
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:

Ammann, Brigitta, Schwander, Jakob


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








Peter Alfred von Ballmoos-Haas

Date Deposited:

26 Apr 2016 10:29

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 14:55

Publisher DOI:


Uncontrolled Keywords:

biotic response; Late Glacial; quantification; rapid climatic change; time lags





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