A new Late-glacial and Holocene record of vegetation and fire history from Lago del Greppo, northern Apennines, Italy

Vescovi, Elisa ; Ammann, Brigitta ; Ravazzi, Cesare ; Tinner, Willy

In: Vegetation History and Archaeobotany, 2010, vol. 19, no. 3, p. 219-233

Add to personal list
    Detailed Late-glacial and Holocene palaeoenvironmental records from the northern Apennines with a robust chronology are still rare, though the region has been regarded as a main area of potential refugia of important trees such as Picea abies and Abies alba. We present a new high-resolution pollen and stomata record from Lago del Greppo (1,442m a.s.l., Pistoia, northern Apennines) that has been dated relying on 12 terrestrial plant macrofossils. Late-glacial woodlands became established before 13000cal b.p. and were dominated by Pinus and Betula, although more thermophilous taxa such as Quercus, Tilia and Ulmus were already present in the Greppo area, probably at lower altitudes. Abies and Picea expanded locally at the onset of the Holocene at ca. 11500cal b.p. Fagus sylvatica was the last important tree to expand at ca. 6500cal b.p., following the decline of Abies. Human impact was generally low throughout the Holocene, and the local woods remained rather closed until the most recent time, ca. a.d. 1700-1800. The vegetational history of Lago del Greppo appears consistent with that of previous investigations in the study region. Late-glacial and Holocene vegetation dynamics in the northern Apennines are very similar to those in the Insubrian southern Alps bordering Switzerland and Italy, across the Po Plain. Similarities between the two areas include the Late-glacial presence of Abies alba, its strong dominance during the Holocene across different vegetation belts from the lowlands to high elevations, as well as its final fire and human-triggered reduction during the mid Holocene. Our new data suggest that isolated and minor Picea abies populations survived the Late-glacial in the foothills of the northern Apennines and that at the onset of the Holocene they moved upwards, reaching the site of Lago del Greppo. Today stands of Picea abies occur only in two small areas in the highest part of the northern Apennines, and they have become extinct elsewhere. Given the forecast global warming, these relict Picea abies stands of the northern Apennines, which have a history of at least 13,000years, appear severely endangered