Rapid climatic changes and resilient vegetation during the Lateglacial and Holocene in a continental region of south-western Europe

Josu Aranbarri, Penélope González-Sampériz, Blas Valero-Garcés, Ana Moreno, Graciela Gil-Romera, Miguel Sevilla-Callejo, Eduardo García-Prieto, Federico Di Rita, María Pilar Mata-Campo, Mario Morellón, Donatella Magri, Julio Rodríguez-Lázaro, José S. Carrión

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

78 Scopus citations


Palynological, sedimentological and geochemical analyses performed on the Villarquemado paleolake sequence (987. m a.s.l, 40°30'N; 1°18'W) reveal the vegetation dynamics and climate variability in continental Iberia over the last 13,500. cal. yr. BP. The Lateglacial and early Holocene periods are characterized by arid conditions with a stable landscape dominated by pinewoods and steppe until ca. 7780. cal. yr. BP, despite sedimentological evidence for large paleohydrological fluctuations in the paleolake. The most humid phase occurred between ca. 7780 and 5000. cal. yr. BP and was characterized by the maximum spread of mesophytes (e.g., Betula, Corylus, Quercus faginea type), the expansion of a mixed Mediterranean oak woodland with evergreen Quercus as dominant forest communities and more frequent higher lake level periods. The return of a dense pinewood synchronous with the depletion of mesophytes characterizes the mid-late Holocene transition (ca. 5000. cal. yr. BP) most likely as a consequence of an increasing aridity that coincides with the reappearance of a shallow, carbonate wetland environment. The paleohydrological and vegetation evolution shows similarities with other continental Mediterranean areas of Iberia and demonstrates a marked resilience of terrestrial vegetation and gradual responses to millennial-scale climate fluctuations. Human impact is negligible until the Ibero-Roman period (ca. 2500. cal. yr. BP) when a major deforestation occurred in the nearby pine forest. The last 1500. years are characterized by increasing landscape management, mainly associated with grazing practices shaping the current landscape.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)50-65
Number of pages16
JournalGlobal and Planetary Change
StatePublished - Mar 2014

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The funding for the present study derives from DINAMO (CGL-BOS 2009–07992), DINAMO2 (CGL-BOS 2012–33063), IBERIAN PALEOFLORA (CGL-BOS 2012–31717) and GRACCIE-CONSOLIDER (CSD2007-00067) projects, provided by the Spanish Inter-Ministry Commission of Science and Technology (CICYT) . Josu Aranbarri acknowledges the predoctoral funding provided by the Basque Country Government (ref: FI-2010-5 ). Ana Moreno, Graciela Gil-Romera and Mario Morellón hold post-doctoral contracts funded by “ Ramon y Cajal (ref: RYC-2008-02431 )”, “ Juan de la Cierva (ref: JCI2009-04345 )” and “ JAE DOC CSIC (ref: JAEDOC-2011-026 )” programms, respectively. Eduardo García-Prieto is supported by a predoctoral FPI grant ( BES-2010-038593 ). We are very greateful to Aida Adsuar, Beatriz Bueno and Raquel López-Cantero for their assistance in core sampling and laboratory procedures. Josu Aranbarri thanks collegues from the Dipartimento di Biologia Ambientale, especially Alessandra Celant, for continuous encouragement. We would also like to thank Thomas M. Cronin, Anthony C. Stevenson and an anonymous reviewer for their valuable suggestions.

Copyright 2014 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Aridity
  • Continental Iberia
  • Holocene
  • Multiproxy reconstruction
  • Pinewoods
  • Vegetation resilience

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