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Keywords:

  • climate change;
  • historical biogeography;
  • Holocene;
  • palaeoecology;
  • palynology;
  • Spain;
  • vegetation dynamics

Summary

  • 1
    The fossil pollen record of Cañada de la Cruz in the Segura mountains of southern Spain yields insights into high-elevation vegetational dynamics over the last c. 8320 years. Phases of xerophytic grassland alternate with high-mountain open pine forests and expansion of deciduous forests and Mediterranean scrub at lower altitudes.
  • 2
    Longer-term stable vegetation patterns are interrupted by multidecadal to century-scale shifts at about 7770, 3370, 2630, 1525 and 790 years BP.
  • 3
    Some of the vegetation types have no modern analogues and represent high-altitude remnants of widespread last-glacial xerophytic communities. Other species patterns, characteristic of current scrub associations, appeared only within the last 800 years.
  • 4
    The sequence fits within the regional context of a generally wet mid-Holocene (c. 7700–3300 years BP) characterized by spread of mesophilous vegetation, between drier conditions characterized by greater abundance of xerophytes.
  • 5
    The pollen record and current ecological studies on high-elevation vegetation of Mediterranean Spain suggest that control of vegetation is primarily climatic although grazing pressure, which would have pushed vegetation over a threshold for change, cannot be discounted.