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Origin of the forest steppe and exceptional grassland diversity in Transylvania (central-eastern Europe)

Feurdean, Angelica; Marinova, Elena; Nielsen, Anne Birgitte LU ; Liakka, Johan; Veres, Daniel; Hutchinson, Simon M.; Braun, Mihaly; Timar-Gabor, Alida; Astalos, Ciprian and Mosburgger, Volker, et al. (2015) In Journal of Biogeography 42(5). p.951-963
Abstract
Aim The forest steppe of the Transylvanian Plain is a landscape of exceptionally diverse steppe-like and semi-natural grasslands. Is this vegetation a remnant of a once continuous temperate forest extensively cleared by humans, or has the area, since the last glacial, always been a forest steppe? Understanding the processes that drive temperate grassland formation is important because effective management of this biome is critical to the conservation of the European cultural landscape. Location Lake Stiucii, north-western Romania, central-eastern Europe. Methods We analysed multi-proxy variables (pollen, coprophilous fungi, plant macroremains, macrocharcoal) from a 55,000year discontinuous sequence (c. 55,000-35,000; 13,000-0cal. yr bp),... (More)
Aim The forest steppe of the Transylvanian Plain is a landscape of exceptionally diverse steppe-like and semi-natural grasslands. Is this vegetation a remnant of a once continuous temperate forest extensively cleared by humans, or has the area, since the last glacial, always been a forest steppe? Understanding the processes that drive temperate grassland formation is important because effective management of this biome is critical to the conservation of the European cultural landscape. Location Lake Stiucii, north-western Romania, central-eastern Europe. Methods We analysed multi-proxy variables (pollen, coprophilous fungi, plant macroremains, macrocharcoal) from a 55,000year discontinuous sequence (c. 55,000-35,000; 13,000-0cal. yr bp), integrating models of pollen-based vegetation cover, biome reconstruction, global atmospheric simulations and archaeological records. Results Needleleaf woodland occurred during glacial Marine Isotope Stage (MIS) 3, but contracted at the end of this period. Forest coverage of c. 55% (early Holocene) and 65% (mid-Holocene) prevailed through the Holocene, but Bronze Age humans extensively cleared forests after 3700cal. yr bp. Forest coverage was most widespread between 8600 and 3700cal. yr bp, whereas grasses, steppe and xerothermic forbs were most extensive between 11,700 and 8600cal. yr bp and during the last 3700cal. yr bp. Cerealia pollen indicate the presence of arable agriculture by c. 7000cal. yr bp. Main conclusions We have provided the first unequivocal evidence for needleleaf woodland during glacial MIS 3 in this region. Extensive forests prevailed prior to 3700cal. yr bp, challenging the hypothesis that the Transylvanian lowlands were never wooded following the last glaciation. However, these forests were never fully closed either, reflecting dry growing season conditions, recurrent fires and anthropogenic impacts, which have favoured grassland persistence throughout the Holocene. The longevity of natural and semi-natural grasslands in the region may explain their current exceptional biodiversity. This longer-term perspective implies that future climatic warming and associated fire will maintain these grasslands. (Less)
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keywords
Anthropogenic impact, Bronze Age, fire, grassland diversity, Holocene, MIS-3, palaeoecology, REVEALS, Romania, steppe
in
Journal of Biogeography
volume
42
issue
5
pages
951 - 963
publisher
Wiley-Blackwell
external identifiers
  • wos:000352793700013
  • scopus:84926517967
ISSN
1365-2699
DOI
10.1111/jbi.12468
language
English
LU publication?
yes
id
f2a7b3dc-793c-49b3-9026-22218a7ca718 (old id 5401325)
date added to LUP
2015-05-19 11:47:00
date last changed
2017-10-22 03:12:31
@article{f2a7b3dc-793c-49b3-9026-22218a7ca718,
  abstract     = {Aim The forest steppe of the Transylvanian Plain is a landscape of exceptionally diverse steppe-like and semi-natural grasslands. Is this vegetation a remnant of a once continuous temperate forest extensively cleared by humans, or has the area, since the last glacial, always been a forest steppe? Understanding the processes that drive temperate grassland formation is important because effective management of this biome is critical to the conservation of the European cultural landscape. Location Lake Stiucii, north-western Romania, central-eastern Europe. Methods We analysed multi-proxy variables (pollen, coprophilous fungi, plant macroremains, macrocharcoal) from a 55,000year discontinuous sequence (c. 55,000-35,000; 13,000-0cal. yr bp), integrating models of pollen-based vegetation cover, biome reconstruction, global atmospheric simulations and archaeological records. Results Needleleaf woodland occurred during glacial Marine Isotope Stage (MIS) 3, but contracted at the end of this period. Forest coverage of c. 55% (early Holocene) and 65% (mid-Holocene) prevailed through the Holocene, but Bronze Age humans extensively cleared forests after 3700cal. yr bp. Forest coverage was most widespread between 8600 and 3700cal. yr bp, whereas grasses, steppe and xerothermic forbs were most extensive between 11,700 and 8600cal. yr bp and during the last 3700cal. yr bp. Cerealia pollen indicate the presence of arable agriculture by c. 7000cal. yr bp. Main conclusions We have provided the first unequivocal evidence for needleleaf woodland during glacial MIS 3 in this region. Extensive forests prevailed prior to 3700cal. yr bp, challenging the hypothesis that the Transylvanian lowlands were never wooded following the last glaciation. However, these forests were never fully closed either, reflecting dry growing season conditions, recurrent fires and anthropogenic impacts, which have favoured grassland persistence throughout the Holocene. The longevity of natural and semi-natural grasslands in the region may explain their current exceptional biodiversity. This longer-term perspective implies that future climatic warming and associated fire will maintain these grasslands.},
  author       = {Feurdean, Angelica and Marinova, Elena and Nielsen, Anne Birgitte and Liakka, Johan and Veres, Daniel and Hutchinson, Simon M. and Braun, Mihaly and Timar-Gabor, Alida and Astalos, Ciprian and Mosburgger, Volker and Hickler, Thomas},
  issn         = {1365-2699},
  keyword      = {Anthropogenic impact,Bronze Age,fire,grassland diversity,Holocene,MIS-3,palaeoecology,REVEALS,Romania,steppe},
  language     = {eng},
  number       = {5},
  pages        = {951--963},
  publisher    = {Wiley-Blackwell},
  series       = {Journal of Biogeography},
  title        = {Origin of the forest steppe and exceptional grassland diversity in Transylvania (central-eastern Europe)},
  url          = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/jbi.12468},
  volume       = {42},
  year         = {2015},
}