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Interpretation of the last-glacial vegetation of eastern-central Europe using modern analogues from southern Siberia


*Correspondence: Petr Kuneš, Department of Botany, Faculty of Science, Charles University in Prague, Benátská 2, CZ-128 01 Praha 2, Czech Republic. E-mail:


Aim  Interpretation of fossil pollen assemblages may benefit greatly from comparisons with modern palynological and vegetation analogues. To interpret the full- and late-glacial vegetation in eastern-central Europe we compared fossil pollen assemblages from this region with modern pollen assemblages from various vegetation types in southern Siberia, which presumably include the closest modern analogues of the last-glacial vegetation of central Europe.

Location  Czech and Slovak Republics (fossil pollen assemblages); Western Sayan Mountains, southern Siberia (modern pollen assemblages).

Methods  Eighty-eight modern pollen spectra were sampled in 14 vegetation types of Siberian forest, tundra and steppe, and compared with the last-glacial pollen spectra from seven central European localities using principal components analysis.

Results  Both full- and late-glacial pollen spectra from the valleys of the Western Carpathians (altitudes 350–610 m) are similar to modern pollen spectra from southern Siberian taiga, hemiboreal forest and dwarf-birch tundra. The full-glacial and early late-glacial pollen spectra from lowland river valleys in the Bohemian Massif (altitudes 185–190 m) also indicate the presence of patches of hemiboreal forest or taiga. Other late-glacial pollen spectra from the Bohemian Massif suggest an open landscape with steppe or tundra or a mosaic of both, possibly with small patches of hemiboreal forest.

Main conclusions  Our results are consistent with the hypothesis that during the full glacial and late glacial, the mountain valleys of the north-western Carpathians supported taiga or hemiboreal forest dominated by Larix, Pinus cembra, Pinus sylvestris and Picea, along with some steppic or tundra formations. Forests tended to be increasingly open or patchy towards the west (Moravian lowlands), gradually passing into the generally treeless landscape of Bohemia, with possible woodland patches in locally favourable sites.