Reconstruction of full glacial environments and summer temperatures from Lago della Costa, a refugial site in Northern Italy

Samartin, Stéphanie; Heiri, Oliver; Boltshauser-Kaltenrieder, Petra; Kühl, Norbert; Tinner, Willy (2016). Reconstruction of full glacial environments and summer temperatures from Lago della Costa, a refugial site in Northern Italy. Quaternary Science Reviews, 143, pp. 107-119. Pergamon 10.1016/j.quascirev.2016.04.005

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Vegetation and climate during the last ice age and the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM, ∼23,000–19,000 cal BP) were considerably different than during the current interglacial (Holocene). Cold climatic conditions and growing ice-sheets during the last glaciation radically reduced forest extent in Europe to a restricted number of so-called “refugia”, mostly located in the southern part of the continent. On the basis of paleobotanical analyses the Euganian Hills (Colli Euganei) in northeastern Italy have previously been proposed as one of the northernmost refugia of temperate trees (e.g. deciduous Quercus, Tilia, Ulmus, Fraxinus excelsior, Acer, Abies alba, Fagus sylvatica, Carpinus and Castanea) in Europe. In this study we provide the first quantitative, vegetation independent summer air temperature reconstruction for Northern Italy spanning the time ∼31,000–17,000 cal yr BP, which covers the coldest periods of the last glacial, including the LGM and Heinrich stadials 1 to 3. Chironomids preserved in a lake sediment core from Lago della Costa (7m a.s.l.), a small lake at the south-eastern edge of the Euganean Hills, allowed quantitative reconstruction of Full and Late Glacial summer air temperatures using a combined Swiss-Norwegian temperature inference model based on chironomid assemblages from 274 lakes. Chironomid and pollen evidence from Lago della Costa derives from finely stratified autochthonous organic gyttja sediments, which excludes major sediment mixing or reworking. After reconstructing paleo-temperatures, we address the question whether climate conditions were warm enough to permit the local survival of temperate tree species during the LGM and whether local expansions and pollen-inferred contractions of temperate tree taxa coincided with chironomid-inferred climatic changes. Our results suggest that chironomids at Lago della Costa have responded to major climatic fluctuations such as temperature decreases during the LGM and Heinrich stadials. The vegetation of the Euganean Hills shows responses to these climatic oscillations although the effects of temperature changes were probably also strongly influenced by changes in humidity. Reconstructed July air temperatures at Lago della Costa never fell below 10–13 °C (error range of reconstruction ∼ ±1.5–1.6 °C), which is considerably above the limit considered necessary for forest growth (8–10 °C). Instead rather mild climatic conditions prevailed ∼31,000–17,000 cal yr BP with average summer temperatures between ∼12 and 16 °C, which most likely allowed survival of temperate tree taxa in the warmest (and moistest) microhabitats of the Euganean Hills during the LGM. Only assuming local survival is it possible to explain the repeated expansions and collapses of temperate trees at Lago della Costa which faithfully accompanied the climatic oscillations.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


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:

Samartin, Stéphanie, Heiri, Oliver, Boltshauser-Kaltenrieder, Petra, Tinner, Willy


500 Science > 580 Plants (Botany)








Monika Wälti-Stampfli

Date Deposited:

21 Jul 2016 08:58

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 14:57

Publisher DOI:


Uncontrolled Keywords:

Chironomids; Refugia; Vegetation; Northern Italy; Mediterranean; Climate; Last Glacial; LGM; Heinrich events; Paleoecology; Paleoclimatology




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