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Holocene vegetation dynamics of the Eastern Mediterranean region: old controversies addressed by a new analysis

Cruz‐Silva, E. ORCID:, Harrison, S. P. ORCID:, Prentice, I. C. ORCID: and Marinova, E. ORCID: (2023) Holocene vegetation dynamics of the Eastern Mediterranean region: old controversies addressed by a new analysis. Journal of Biogeography. ISSN 1365-2699

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1111/jbi.14749


Aim We reconstruct vegetation changes since 12 ky in the Eastern Mediterranean to examine four features of the regional vegetation history that are controversial: the extent of non‐analogue vegetation assemblages in the transition from the Late Glacial to the early Holocene, the synchroneity of postglacial forest expansion, the geographical extent of temperate deciduous forest during the mid‐Holocene and the timing and trigger for the re‐establishment of drought‐tolerant vegetation during the late Holocene. Location The Eastern Mediterranean–Black Sea Caspian Corridor. Taxon Vascular plants. Methods We reconstruct vegetation changes for 122 fossil pollen records using a method that accounts for within‐biome variability in pollen taxon abundance to determine the biome with which a sample has greatest affinity. Per‐biome affinity threshold values were used to identify samples that do not belong to any modern biome. We apply time series analysis and mapping to examine space and time changes.ResultsSites with non‐analogue vegetation were most common between 11.5 and 9.5 ky and mostly in the Carpathians. The transition from open vegetation to forest occurred at 10.64 ± 0.65 ky across the whole region. Temperate deciduous forest was not more extensive at 6 ky; maximum expansion occurred between 5.5 and 5 ky. Expansion of forest occurred between c. 4 and 2.8 k, followed by an abrupt decrease and a subsequent recovery. This pattern is not consistent with a systematic decline of forest towards more drought‐tolerant vegetation in the late Holocene but is consistent with centennial‐scale speleothem patterns linked to variations in moisture availability. Main Conclusions We show the occurrence of non‐analogue vegetation types peaked during early Holocene, forest expansion was synchronous across the region and there was an expansion of moisture‐demanding temperate trees around 5.5 to 5 ky. There is no signal of a continuous late Holocene aridification, but changes in forest cover appear to reflect climatic rather than anthropogenic influences.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Science > School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Science > Department of Geography and Environmental Science
ID Code:113988
Uncontrolled Keywords:Ecology, Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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