Identifying and Interpreting the Imprint of the Little Ice Age over the Balkan Landscape: A Combined Palynological and Geochemical Approach
Monday, 15 December 2014
We examine a multi-centennial Balkan record of vegetation and landscape during the Little Ice Age (LIA) climatic transition that lasted from c. 15th to the 19th century AD. Biological proxies (pollen, spores, and charcoal), geochemical analysis (X-ray Fluorescence (XRF)), and a robust chronology based on AMS 14C dating are used to reconstruct the vegetation response and human-environmental interactions during the LIA. A sediment core extracted from a sinkhole lake located in western Serbia (44°30’N-19°30’E; elevation 250 m a.s.l.) was sampled at 10-cm intervals for investigating biological proxies. Palynological data include temperate indigenous trees (e.g. Quercus, Betula), herbaceous taxa (e.g. Poaceae, Chenopodiaceae), and key anthropogenic indicators (e.g. Juglans, cereals) and demonstrate wet and cool conditions as well as seasonal variations during cal. 16th to 19th century AD. The XRF data obtained from the core at 1-cm intervals show changes in the clastic input and surface erosion around the lake probably owing to seasonal variations during the LIA. Moreover, pollen and charcoal data together reveal the changing nature of human interference across the LIA from intense deforestation to reforestation and sustained cultivation with climatic and seasonal variations. Correlating palaeoecological and geochemical data for this region allows us to interpret the long-term dynamics of landscape and humans across one of the important climatic intervals in Europe. The Balkans, as one of Europe’s “Biodiversity Hotspots” and a rapidly changing region, provides insights into possible biotic responses to future global climatic change.