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Climate of the Past An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 07 Oct 2019

Submitted as: research article | 07 Oct 2019

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This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Climate of the Past (CP).

Climate impacts on deglaciation and vegetation dynamics since the Last Glacial Maximum at Moossee (Switzerland)

Fabian Rey1,2,3, Erika Gobet1,2, Christoph Schwörer1,2, Albert Hafner2,4, and Willy Tinner1,2 Fabian Rey et al.
  • 1Institute of Plant Sciences, University of Bern, 3013 Bern, Switzerland
  • 2Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research, University of Bern, 3013 Bern, Switzerland
  • 3Geoecology, Department of Environmental Sciences, University of Basel, 4056 Basel, Switzerland
  • 4Institute of Archaeological Sciences, University of Bern, 3012 Bern, Switzerland

Abstract. Since the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM, end ca. 19 000 cal BP) Central European plant communities were shaped by changing climatic and anthropogenic disturbances. Understanding long-term ecosystem reorganizations in response to past environmental changes is crucial to draw conclusions about the impact of future climate change. So far, it has been difficult to address the post-deglaciation timing and ecosystem dynamics due to a lack of well-dated and continuous sediment sequences covering the entire period after the LGM. Here, we present a new palaeoecological study with exceptional chronological time control using pollen, spores and microscopic charcoal from Moossee (Swiss Plateau, 521 m a.s.l.) to reconstruct the vegetation and fire history over the last ca. 19 000 years. After lake formation in response to deglaciation, five major pollen-inferred ecosystem rearrangements occurred at ca. 18 800 cal BP (establishment of steppe tundra), 16 000 cal BP (spread of shrub tundra), 14 600 cal BP (expansion of boreal forests), 11 600 cal BP (establishment of first temperate deciduous tree stands composed of e.g. Quercus, Ulmus, Alnus) and 8200 cal BP (first occurence of mesophilous Fagus sylvatica trees). These vegetation shifts were released by climate changes at 19 000, 16 000, 14 700, 11 700 and 8200 cal BP. Vegetation responses occurred with no apparent time lag to climate change, if the mutual chronological uncertainties are considered. This finding is in agreement with further evidence from Southern and Central Europe and might be explained with proximity to the refugia of boreal and temperate trees (< 400 km) and rapid species spreads. Our palynological record sets the beginning of millennial-scale land use with periodically increased fire and agricultural activities of the Neolithic period at ca. 7000 cal BP (5050 cal BC). Subsequently, humans rather than climate triggered changes in vegetation composition and structure. We conclude that Fagus sylvatica forests were resilient to long-term anthropogenic and climatic impacts of the mid and the late Holocene. However, future climate warming and in particular declining moisture availability may cause unprecedented reorganizations of Central European beech-dominated forest ecosystems.

Fabian Rey et al.
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Fabian Rey et al.
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Publications Copernicus
Short summary
We present a novel post-LGM sediment record from Moossee located on the Swiss Plateau in Southern Central Europe. For the first time, five major reorganizations of vegetation could be unambiguously liked to paramount postglacial temperature and/ or moisture changes. Present-day beech-dominated forests have been resilient to long-term climate change and human land use. They may prevail in future if climate warming will not exceed the amplitude of Mid Holocene temperature and moisture variability.
We present a novel post-LGM sediment record from Moossee located on the Swiss Plateau in...