Vegetation of the Lago de Sanabria area (NW Iberia) since the end of the Pleistocene: a palaeoecological reconstruction on the basis of two new pollen sequences

Research paper by Castor Muñoz Sobrino, Pablo Ramil-Rego, Luis Gómez-Orellana

Indexed on: 05 Feb '04Published on: 05 Feb '04Published in: Vegetation History and Archaeobotany


Various pollen sequences from lacustrine deposits close to Lago de Sanabria (NW Iberia) have for several decades been a key source of information for palaeoenvironmental reconstructions of SW Europe, though their interpretation has been the subject of some controversy. Here we present two new pollen sequences obtained from this area, and a new palaeoenvironmental reconstruction of the region. The available pollen data reach back to before 18,000 b.p., a period of very harsh climate with seasonal (non continuous) sedimentation and a landscape characterised by herbaceous formations dominated by Gramineae and Artemisia, and scrub formations dominated by Ericaceae and Cistaceae. Subsequently sedimentation became continuous, and various regional forest expansions are apparent. At a local level, the first forest expansion began about 12,000 b.p., when Betula pollen reached 70% followed by peaks in Pinus sylvestris-type (>80%) and Quercus robur-type (40%). The Younger Dryas saw a retreat of woodland formations in the area around the lake, with broadleaved deciduous woodland (largely oak) retreating at mid and low altitudes, but with pine woodland persisting in more sheltered sites. The climatic improvement in the Early Holocene favoured re-expansion of woodland, dominated by Pinus sylvestris-type at higher and Quercus robur and Q. pyrenaica at lower altitudes, until anthropogenic deforestation commenced around 4,000 b.p. The disappearance of natural pine woodlands in this region is probably largely attributable to human interference.