A deglaciation and Holocene biomarker-based reconstruction of climate and environmental variability in NW Iberian Peninsula: the Sanabria Lake sequence

Margarita Jambrina-Enríquez, Dirk Sachse, Blas L. Valero-Garcés

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17 Scopus citations


The molecular biomarker composition of two sediment cores from Sanabria Lake (NW Iberian Peninsula) and a survey of modern plants in the watershed provide a reconstruction of past vegetation and landscape dynamics since deglaciation. During a proglacial stage in Lake Sanabria (prior to 14.7 cal ka BP), very low biomarker concentration and carbon preference index (CPI) values ~1 suggest that the n-alkanes could have derived from eroded ancient sediment sources or older organic matter with high degree of maturity. During the Late glacial (14.7–11.7 cal ka BP) and the Holocene (last 11.7 cal ka BP) intervals with higher biomarker and triterpenoid concentrations (high %nC29, nC31 alkanes), higher CPI and average carbon length (ACL), and lower Paq (proportion of aquatic plants) are indicative of major contribution of vascular land plants from a more forested watershed (e.g. Mid Holocene period 7.0–4.0 cal ka BP). Lower biomarker concentrations (high %nC27 alkanes), CPI and ACL values responded to short phases with decreased allochthonous contribution into the lake that correspond to centennial-scale periods of regional forest decline (e.g. 4–3 ka BP, Roman deforestation after 2.0 ka, and some phases of the LIA, seventeenth–nineteenth centuries). Human activities in the watershed were significant during early medieval times (1.3–1.0 cal ka BP) and since 1960 CE, in both cases associated with relatively higher productivity stages in the lake (lower biomarker and triterpenoid concentrations, high %nC23 and %nC31 respectively, lower ACL and CPI values and higher Paq). The lipid composition of Sanabria Lake sediments indicates a major allochthonous (watershed-derived) contribution to the organic matter budget since deglaciation, and a dominant oligotrophic status during the lake history. The study constrains the climate and anthropogenic forcings and watershed versus lake sources in organic matter accumulation processes and helps to design conservation and management policies in mountain, oligotrophic lakes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)49-66
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Paleolimnology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jun 1 2016

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016, Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht.

Copyright 2017 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Holocene
  • Iberian Peninsula
  • Lateglacial
  • Lipid biomarker
  • n-Alkanes
  • Plant n-alkanes
  • Sanabria Lake

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  • ESP


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