Sedimentary geochemistry depicts 2700 years of regional climate and land use change in the Rieti Basin, Central Italy
Tuesday, 16 December 2014
A 14.4 m thick sedimentary sequence was recovered in multiple cores from Lago Lungo in the Rieti Basin, an intrapenninic extensional basin ~80 km north of Rome, Italy. This sequence provides a high-resolution record of environmental change related to climatic influence and anthropogenic landscape alteration. Pollen analyses, corroborated with historical records of land-use change, define the major shifts in forest composition and their historical context. An age model of the sequence was built using ties to regional cultigen datums and archaeomagnetic reference curves. Here we focus on sedimentologic and geochemical data (scanning XRF) from the Roman Period through the Little Ice Age (LIA). The base of the sequence (ca. 680 BCE- 1 CE) is marked by a steady increase in fine-grained detrital elements Ti, Rb, and K, and corresponding decrease in Ca, representing a transition from the unaltered system after the Romans constructed a channel that the basin. The Medieval Period (MP; 900-1350 CE) is lithologically distinct, composed of varicolored bands of alternating silt, clay, and calcareous concretions. Low counts of Ca, high detrital elements and frequent abrupt peaks in levels of the redox elements Fe and Mn indicate episodic clastic influx. Pollen data indicate that the greatest degree of deforestation and erosion occurred during the MP, supported by mean sedimentation rates of ca. 1cm/year, over twice the rate of the underlying interval. The Medieval climate was warmer and more stable, population increased, and elevations >1000 m were exploited for agriculture. The influence of the Velino River on the lake appears to increase during the MP through channel migration, increased flooding, or increased overland flow. The next transition (1350 CE) marks the start of the LIA and is coincident with the Black Plague. Historical records document a large earthquake in 1349 that severely struck Central Italy, with possible effects on the lake’s depositional and hydrochemical regime. Clastic input abruptly ceases at the start of the LIA, and peaks in Sr, Ca, and S may be attributed to changes in lake inflow. Core analyses results, corroborated with historical documentation, provide new insights into the basin history and the underlying causes of environmental change.