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Early Holocene Tree Growth at a High Elevation Site in the Northernmost Scandes of Sweden (Lapland): A Palaeobiogeographical Case Study Based on Megafossil Evidence

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The paper focuses on early Holocene tree growth and alpine tree-limits in the northernmost Swedish Scandes (Lapland). Megafossil wood remnants in peats and lakes were searched for over a large area at elevations high above the modern tree-limits. Wood of Pinus sylvestris, Betula pubescens spp. tortuosa and Alnus incana was discovered near the shore of a small lake (999 m a.s.l.) c. 500 m higher than today's tree-limit of Pinus sylvestris in this region. Radiocarbon dating yielded values of unprecedented age, c. 8500–8100 14C yearsBPfor all three species and in addition 5400–4500 14C yearsBPfor Betula and Alnus. The highest position of the Pinus tree-limit occurred during the early Holocene, which compares well with the situation reconstructed by megafossils in the southern Scandes. It now appears that the long-term tree-limit and climate histories are broadly the same in entire mid- and northern Fennoscandia. Corrected for glacio-isostatic land uplift, the tree-limit record suggests that the summers were c. 2.4°C warmer than today at 8500 14C yearsBP. A dry continental climate with substantial seasonal contrasts is likely to have prevailed during this period, which restricted the occurrence of glaciers and glacier activity. Most circumstances point to the overriding importance of the Milankovitch orbital theory for pacing or forcing the long-term postglacial climate change. The results are inconsistent with most inferences based on pollen, certain macrofossil records and general circulation simulations. These proxy environmental histories have frequently advocated a mid-Holocene thermal optimum and an oceanic and humid climate in northern and western Fennoscandia during the early Holocene. The uncovered discrepancy between the outcome of the objective and factual megafossil method and more subjective/inferential microfossil methods should be important for Quaternary plant ecology in general, stressing the usefulness of megafossil studies.

Keywords: Holocene; Swedish Scandes; glacial activity; megafossils; palaeoclimate; tree-limit

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Physical Geography, Umeå University, Sweden

Publication date: April 1, 1999


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