Human impact on open temperate woodlands during the middle Holocene in Central Europe



Year of publication 2017
Type Article in Periodical
Magazine / Source Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Arts

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Field Archaeology, anthropology, ethnology
Keywords temperate oakwoods; Quercus; human impact; climate; palaeoecology; archaeology
Description Temperate oak-dominated woodlands are plant communities characterized by relatively open canopy structure and often rich assemblages of light-demanding understory species. This vegetation prevailed in Central European lowlands during the early and middle Holocene. Where open woodlands persisted in later periods, several main factors might have prevented the expansion of shade-tolerant tree species: climate, soil, and disturbances. The last factor includes both natural and human induced agents (fire, grazing of wild or domestic herbivores, management). In our study we focused on the relative impact of the humans and climate on long-term forest vegetation changes in the northerwestern part of the Panonnian Basin. Two peat cores covering the vegetation history of the past 12,000 years have been investigated by means of pollen and charcoal analyses. Palaeoecological data were interpreted in the context of a climatic model and archaeological evidence. Our results showed that the early Holocene vegetation in the study region was composed of open wooded steppe with the dominance of pine. Succession to temperate oak and hazel woodland started in about 7500 cal BP and coincides with the first traces of permanent human settlement in the vicinity of both study sites. Since the Neolithic, different types of woodland management have created a more open forest structure, which has benefited light demanding trees, such as oak and hazel. However, during the middle Holocene several humid oscillations were recorded, which might have triggered the expansion of temperate woodlands. Although the natural or anthropogenic drivers behind the dynamics of temperate woodland could not be separated from each other, it seems probable that long-term human impact influenced the dynamics of temperate woodlands from the middle and late Holocene until the present.
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