Rapid vegetation response to Lateglacial and early Holocene climatic fluctuation in the South Carpathian Mountains (Romania)

E. K. Magyari, G. Jakab, M. Bálint, Z. Kern, K. Buczkó, M. Braun

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77 Citations (Scopus)


High-resolution pollen, conifer stomata and plant macrofossil analyses of two glacial lake sediments (1740 and 1990 m a.s.l.) are used to reconstruct Lateglacial (LG) and early Holocene (EH) vegetation and tree line changes in the Retezat Mountains. Our results show that during the LG, tree line was between 1750 and 1800 m a.s.l. formed by Larix decidua, Pinus mugo and Picea abies. Early LG spread to high altitudes suggests refugia of these tree species in the mountain. The Younger Dryas cooling resulted in regional steppe-tundra expansion, but tree line position and composition showed little change. The abundance of trees and shrubs decreased at 1740 m a.s.l., but species richness increased with the arrival of Pinus cembra. Our data support climate-model hindcasts for only modest decrease in accumulated growing season heat at mid-high altitudes. Regionally the pollen records suggest enhanced aridity and seasonality. In the EH, tree line reached 2000 m a.s.l. (higher than today) by ∼11,100 cal yr BP. P. mugo, P. cembra, P. abies established around the upper lake suggesting rapid increase in summer temperatures. The EH maximum of L. decidua between 11,200-10,600 cal yr BP was connected to high summer insolation. High altitude expansion of Abies alba between 10,600-10,300 cal yr BP suggested summer mean temperatures ∼2.8 °C higher then today. In comparison with other mountain sites in Europe, LG interstadial tree line was at similar altitude in the S Alps and ∼350 m higher in the Pirin Mountains. LG tree line fluctuation had similar low amplitude in the SE Alps, Retezat and Pirin Mts suggesting relatively weak influence of the North Atlantic thermohaline circulation changes on growing season temperatures.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)116-130
Number of pages15
JournalQuaternary Science Reviews
Publication statusPublished - Mar 5 2012


  • Lateglacial
  • Refugia
  • Retezat Mountains
  • Tree line
  • Vegetation dynamics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology
  • Geology

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