Early Holocene humidity patterns in the Iberian Peninsula reconstructed from lake, pollen and speleothem records

Mario Morellón, Josu Aranbarri, Ana Moreno, Penélope González-Sampériz, Blas L. Valero-Garcés

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Comparison of selected, well-dated, lacustrine, speleothem and terrestrial pollen records spanning the Holocene onset and the Early Holocene (ca. 11.7–8 cal kyrs BP) in the Iberian Peninsula shows large hydrological fluctuations and landscape changes with a complex regional pattern in timing and intensity. Marine pollen records from Alboran, the Mediterranean and off shore Atlantic sites show a step-wise increase in moisture and forest during this transition. However, available continental records point to two main patterns of spatial and temporal hydrological variability: i) Atlantic-influenced sites located at the northwestern areas (Enol, Sanabria, Lucenza, PRD-4), characterized by a gradual increase in humidity from the end of the Younger Dryas to the Mid Holocene, similarly to most North Atlantic records; and ii) continental and Mediterranean-influenced sites (Laguna Grande, Villarquemado, Fuentillejo, Padul, Estanya, Banyoles, Salines), with prolonged arid conditions of variable temporal extension after the Younger Dryas, followed by an abrupt increase in moisture at 10-9 cal kyrs BP. Different local climate conditions influenced by topography or the variable sensitivity (gradual versus threshold values) of the proxies analyzed in each case are evaluated. Vegetation composition (conifers versus mesothermophilous taxa) and resilience would explain a subdued response of vegetation in central continental areas while in Mediterranean sites, insufficient summer moisture availability could not maintain high lake levels and promote mesophyte forest, in contrast to Atlantic-influenced areas. Comparison with available climate models, Greenland ice cores, North Atlantic marine sequences and continental records from Central and Northern Europe and the whole Mediterranean region underlines the distinctive character of the hydrological changes occurred in inner Iberia throughout the Early Holocene. The persistent arid conditions might be explained by the intensification of the summer drought due to the high seasonality contrast at these latitudes caused by the orbital-induced summer insolation maximum. New records, particularly from western and southernmost Iberia, and palaeoclimate models with higher spatial resolution would help to constrain these hypotheses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-18
Number of pages18
JournalQuaternary Science Reviews
StatePublished - Feb 1 2018
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Financial support for research was provided by the Spanish Inter-Ministry Commission of Science and Technology (CICYT) , through the projects CALIBRE ( CGL2006-13327-C4-01 ), GRACCIE ( CSD2007-00067 ), OPERA ( CTM2013-48639-C2-1-R ), SPYRIT ( CGL2016-77479-R ), DINAMO ( CGL2009-07992D ), DINAMO2 ( CGL2012-33063 ), DINAMO3 ( CGL2015-69160-R ) and HYVARMED ( CGL2013-42645-P ). We are grateful to the researchers involved in the investigations of Iberian paleoclimate sequences published during the last years, particularly to those who kindly provided datasets for this review paper. This research has greatly benefited from data compilation and cooperation initiatives carried out by scientific programs like INTIMATE or PAGES. Finally, we also acknowledge anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments and criticism, which led to a considerable improvement on this manuscript.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 Elsevier Ltd

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


  • Aridity
  • Early Holocene
  • Inner Iberian Peninsula
  • Lake records
  • Palaeohydrology
  • Pollen
  • Speleothems
  • Summer insolation maximum
  • Vegetation changes

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