Bronze Age to Medieval vegetation dynamics and landscape anthropization in the southern-central Pyrenees

V. Rull, T. Vegas-Vilarrúbia, J.P. Corella, B. Valero-Garcés

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The varved sediments of Lake Montcortès (central pre-Pyrenees) have provided a continuous high-resolution record of the last ca. 3000 years. Previous chronological and sedimentological studies of this record have furnished detailed paleoenvironmental reconstructions. However, palynological studies are only available for the last millennium, when the landscape around the lake had already been transformed by humans. Therefore, the earlier vegetation of Montcortès and the history of its anthropogenic transformations remain unknown. This paper presents a palynological analysis of the interval between the Late Bronze Age and the Early Medieval period, aimed at recording preanthropic conditions, anthropization onset and the further landscape transformations. During the Late Bronze Age (ca. 1100 BCE to 770 BCE), the vegetation did not show any evidence of human impact. The decisive anthropogenic transformation of the Montcortès catchment vegetation and landscape started at the beginning of the Iron Age (770 BCE) and continued during Roman and Medieval times in the form of recurrent burning, grazing, cultivation, silviculture and hemp retting. Some intervals of lower human pressure were recorded, but the original vegetation never returned. The anthropization that took place during the Iron Age did not cause notable changes in the sediment yield to the lake, but a significant limnological shift occurred, as manifested in the initiation of varve formation, a process that has been continuous until today. Climatic shifts seem to have played a secondary role in influencing vegetation and landscape changes. These results contrast with previous inferences of low anthropogenic impact until the Medieval Period, at a regional level. Similar studies may be developed on other mountain ranges to verify whether landscape anthropization occurred earlier than previously thought, and to verify the potential occurrence of elevational gradients in the anthropization of mountain landscapes. © 2021 Elsevier B.V.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number110392
Number of pages15
JournalPalaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology
Volume571
DOIs
StatePublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was funded by the Spanish Ministry of Science and Technology , projects RyC2003 to VR, LIMNOCLIBER ( REN2003-09130-C02-02 ) to BVG and MEDLANT ( CGL2016-7215-R ) to BVG; Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness , project MONT-500 ( CGL2012-3665 ) to TVV. European Union MSCA-IF-EF-ST funding scheme, project FLOODARC ( 796752 ) to JPC. Fieldwork was conducted by Doug Shnurrenberger, Mark Shapley and Anders Noren (Limnological Research Center, USA); Blas Valero-Garcés, Penélope González-Sampériz and Ana Moreno (Pyrenean Institute of Ecology, Spain); Valentí Rull and Santiago Giralt (Institute of Earth Sciences Jaume Almera, Spain). Fieldwork permits were granted by the Territorial Service of the Department of Agriculture, Livestock, Fishing and Natural Environment of Catalonia (Barcelona). Samples were processed by Núria Cañellas (Laboratory of Paleoecology, Institute of Earth Sciences Jaume Almera). Climatic data were provided by Javier Sigró (University Rovira I Virgili). The collaboration of local entities and persons, notably the Council of Baix Pallars (Gerri de la Sal) and Xavier Figuera (Montcortès) was crucial for fieldwork development. Historical documentation was provided by the Pallars Sobirà District Archive (Sort). The authors are very grateful to three anonymous reviewers, whose comments and suggestions contributed to improve the manuscript.

Funding Information:
This work was funded by the Spanish Ministry of Science and Technology, projects RyC2003 to VR, LIMNOCLIBER (REN2003-09130-C02-02) to BVG and MEDLANT (CGL2016-7215-R) to BVG; Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness, project MONT-500 (CGL2012-3665) to TVV. European Union MSCA-IF-EF-ST funding scheme, project FLOODARC (796752) to JPC. Fieldwork was conducted by Doug Shnurrenberger, Mark Shapley and Anders Noren (Limnological Research Center, USA); Blas Valero-Garc?s, Pen?lope Gonz?lez-Samp?riz and Ana Moreno (Pyrenean Institute of Ecology, Spain); Valent? Rull and Santiago Giralt (Institute of Earth Sciences Jaume Almera, Spain). Fieldwork permits were granted by the Territorial Service of the Department of Agriculture, Livestock, Fishing and Natural Environment of Catalonia (Barcelona). Samples were processed by N?ria Ca?ellas (Laboratory of Paleoecology, Institute of Earth Sciences Jaume Almera). Climatic data were provided by Javier Sigr? (University Rovira I Virgili). The collaboration of local entities and persons, notably the Council of Baix Pallars (Gerri de la Sal) and Xavier Figuera (Montcort?s) was crucial for fieldwork development. Historical documentation was provided by the Pallars Sobir? District Archive (Sort). The authors are very grateful to three anonymous reviewers, whose comments and suggestions contributed to improve the manuscript.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Elsevier B.V.

Keywords

  • Central Pyrenees
  • Human impact
  • Land use
  • Late Holocene
  • Palynology
  • Vegetation shifts

Continental Scientific Drilling Facility tags

  • ESP

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