Reconstruction of full glacial environments and summer air temperatures from Lago della Costa, a refugial site in northeastern Italy.

Monday, 15 December 2014
Stephanie Veronica Samartin, Oliver Heiri, Petra Boltshauser-Kaltenrieder and Willy Tinner, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland
Vegetation and climate during the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) were considerably different than during the current interglacial (Holocene). In Europe large areas north of 40°N were entirely covered by continental ice-sheets and widespread permafrost, with temperatures around 10-20°C lower than at present, whereas further south aridity and temperatures 7-10°C cooler than today occurred. Cool climatic conditions and growing ice-sheets during the LGM radically reduced forest extent and diversity in Europe to a restricted number of so-called “refugia”, mostly located in the southern part of the continent. The Euganian Hills in northeastern Italy are supposed to be one of the northernmost refugia of thermophilous mixed oak forest species (e.g. deciduous Quercus, Tilia, Ulmus, Fraxinus excelsior, Acer, Carpinus, Castanea) as well of some temperate mesophilous species (e.g. Fagus sylvatica, Abies alba) in Europe. In this study we present the first European chironomid-based quantitative temperature reconstruction for the LGM and address the question whether climate conditions were warm enough to permit the local survival of Quercetum mixtum species between ca. 31’000-17’000 cal yr BP.

Chironomids preserved in a lake sediment core from Lago della Costa (7m a.s.l.), a lake on the border of the Euganean Hills in northeastern Italy, allowed quantitative reconstruction of Full and Late Glacial July air temperatures using a combined Swiss-Norwegian temperature inference model based on chironomid assemblages from 274 lakes. Our results suggest that July air temperatures never fell below 10°C which are considered necessary for forest growth. In general, mild climatic conditions prevailed between ca. 31’000-17’000 cal yr BP with temperatures ranging from ca. 11°C to 15.7°C. The expansion of thermophilous trees such as Quercus, Tilia, Ulmus, Fraxinus excelsior, Acer, Carpinus, Castanea (Quercetum mixtum) between ca. 30’000-23’000 cal yr BP can most likely be explained by climate warming (ca. 14°C), conversely, the local contraction of these taxa between ca. 23’000-18’500 cal yr BP was possibly triggered by cooler summer air temperatures (ca. 13.4°C) and a significant moisture decline during the LGM.