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Keywords:

  • Holocene;
  • dwarf shrub tundra;
  • pollen;
  • boreal–arctic boundary;
  • climate models;
  • 8200 cal. yr BP event

Abstract

Climate models suggest that the global warming during the early to mid-Holocene may have partly resulted from the northward advance of the northern treeline and subsequent reduction of the planetary albedo. We investigated the Holocene vegetation history of low arctic continental Nunavut, Canada, from a radiocarbon-dated sediment core from TK-2 Lake, a small-lake ca. 200 km north of the limit of the forest-tundra. The pollen and loss-on-ignition data indicate the presence of dwarf shrub tundra in the region since the beginning of organic sedimentation at ca. 9000 cal. yr BP with dominance of Betula, especially since 8700 cal. yr BP. At 8100–7900 cal. yr BP the dominance of the shrub tundra was punctuated by a transient decline of Betula and coincident increases of Ericaceae undiff., Vaccinium-type, and Gramineae. This suggests an abrupt disturbance of the Betula glandulosa population, approximately simultaneously with the sudden 8200 cal. yr BP event in the North Atlantic. However, in the absence of other sites studied in the area, linkage to the 8200 cal. yr BP event remains tentative. The lack of any evidence of forest-tundra in the region constrains the northern limit of the mid-Holocene advance of the forest-tundra boundary in central northern Canada. Consequently, our results show that the climate models imposing a mid-Holocene advance of the limit of the forest-tundra to the arctic coast of Canada may have overestimated the positive climatic feedback effects that can result from the replacement of tundra by the boreal forest. Copyright © 2003 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.