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Type: Journal Article
Author(s): Christoph Schwörer; Petra Kaltenrieder; Lukas Glur; Matthias Berlinger; Julie Elbert; Stephanie Frei; Adrian Gilli; Albert Hafner; Flavio S. Anselmetti; Martin Grosjean; Willy Tinner
Publication Date: September 2014

Treelines are expected to rise to higher elevations with climate warming; the rate and extent however are still largely unknown. Here we present the first multi-proxy palaeoecological study from the treeline in the Northwestern Swiss Alps that covers the entire Holocene. We reconstructed climate, fire and vegetation dynamics at Iffigsee, an alpine lake at 2,065 m a.s.l., by using seismic sedimentary surveys, loss on ignition, visible spectrum reflectance spectroscopy, pollen, spore, macrofossil and charcoal analyses. Afforestation with Larix decidua and tree Betula (probably B. pendula) started at ~9,800 cal. B.P., more than 1,000 years later than at similar elevations in the Central and Southern Alps, indicating cooler temperatures and/or a high seasonality. Highest biomass production and forest position of ~2,100-2,300 m a.s.l. are inferred during the Holocene Thermal Maximum from 7,000 to 5,000 cal. B.P. With the onset of pastoralism and transhumance at 6,800-6,500 cal. B.P., human impact became an important factor in the vegetation dynamics at Iffigsee. This early evidence of pastoralism is documented by the presence of grazing indicators (pollen, spores), as well as a wealth of archaeological finds at the nearby mountain pass of Schnidejoch. Human and fire impact during the Neolithic and Bronze Ages led to the establishment of pastures and facilitated the expansion of Picea abies and Alnus viridis. We expect that in mountain areas with land abandonment, the treeline will react quickly to future climate warming by shifting to higher elevations, causing drastic changes in species distribution and composition as well as severe biodiversity losses. © Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013.

Citation: Schworer, C. et al. 2014. Holocene climate, fire and vegetation dynamics at the treeline in the Northwestern Swiss Alps. Vegetation History and Archaeobotany, v. 23, no. 5, p. 479-496. 10.1007/s00334-013-0411-5.

Cataloging Information

Topics:
Regions:
Keywords:
  • afforestation
  • Alnus viridis
  • Alps
  • Betula pendula
  • climate change
  • ecotones
  • Europe
  • European larch
  • fire management
  • forest edges
  • forest management
  • forestation
  • green alder
  • human impact
  • Larix decidua
  • mountains
  • Norway spruce
  • palaeoecology
  • paleoecology
  • Picea abies
  • silver birch
  • Switzerland
  • treeline
  • vegetation history
  • wildfires
Tall Timbers Record Number: 30520Location Status: Not in fileCall Number: AvailableAbstract Status: Fair use, Okay, Reproduced by permission
Record Last Modified:
Record Maintained By: FRAMES Staff (https://www.frames.gov/contact)
FRAMES Record Number: 53183

This bibliographic record was either created or modified by Tall Timbers and is provided without charge to promote research and education in Fire Ecology. The E.V. Komarek Fire Ecology Database is the intellectual property of Tall Timbers.