Aim Previous studies have failed to reconstruct the regional post-glacial migration pattern of Abies alba in southern France. Based on the first exhaustive compilation of palaeoecological data in this region, we present the state-of-the-art and attempt to synthesize the available information concerning glacial refugia and post-glacial migration, and analyse the information with regard to climate and orography.
Location South-western Alps and adjacent areas, southern France.
Methods The work compiles the available palaeoecological data in the south-western Alps (52 sites, 290 radiocarbon dates). The post-glacial migration pattern of Abies alba is reconstructed based on 22 selected palynological analyses (11 well-dated reference sites and 11 supplementary ones).
Results The geographical patterns of approaching area limit, immigration and expansion are reconstructed at the scale of the southern French Alps.
Main conclusions Despite previous assertions, the evidence of refugia in southern France is non-existent. The late-glacial records of fir pollen, previously interpreted in French Mediterranean regions and on adjacent foot-hills as possibly reflecting regional refugia, most probably correspond to reworking phenomena or long-distance pollen transport. Fir migration, originating in the Apennine refugia and through the south-western extremity of the Alps, was extremely rapid in the southern French Alps, only spanning a few centuries between 10,100 and 9800 cal. yr bp. The subsequent spread of fir populations was controlled by local parameters, such as the aridity of the inner valleys, which resulted in a delayed expansion in comparison to other regions. Abies almost disappeared from the south-western Alps during the Roman era, around 2000 cal. yr bp.