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Long-term effects of human impact on mountainous ecosystems, western Taurus Mountains, Turkey

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Abstract Aim 

To investigate the human impact on eastern Mediterranean ecosystems in a subhumid to semi-arid region of the Near East. Location 

This paper considers data from Bereket (1410–1440 m a.s.l.), an intramontane basin surrounded by the Kokayanık Tepe (1830 m a.s.l.) and the Beşparmak Dağları (2280 m a.s.l.), in the western Taurus Mountains of south-west Turkey. Methods 

Late Holocene samples were collected along an 800-cm-deep sediment profile cored in the secondary valley of the Bereket basin. Descriptive vegetation data and modern pollen samples (moss polsters) were collected at elevational intervals of c. 15 m along an altitudinal transect from the Bereket basin (over Tepe Düzen, 1600 m a.s.l.) to Ağlasun Dağı (1700 m a.s.l.). Information about the spatial distribution of the present land cover was obtained from ASTER satellite imagery. Digital elevation-derived data and geological information were used to examine the relationship between actual land cover and other environmental variables. Results 

The well dated Bereket sequence provides a unique record of biennial-to-decadal landscape changes driven primarily by intensive human impact from 360 cal. yrbcto 650 cal. yrad. Since 360 cal. yrbc, over-exploitation of the land has led to altitudinal variation of tree lines, a destruction of the natural forest ecosystems (PinusQuercus cerris mixed forest), and an extensive spread of forest-steppe in the highlands. The present-day distribution of vegetation in the basin area shows that human activities remain the major factor influencing the character of modern ecosystems. Main conclusions 

This research demonstrates the long-term local destructive effects of human impacts on the mountainous ecosystems in a small Anatolian intramontane basin since 360 cal. yrbc, and the capacity of these ecosystems to recover during periods of reduced human impact. The late Holocene history and modern vegetation characteristics show that the past and present-day distribution and composition of vegetation are influenced primarily by human activity, and that substrate, elevation, slope and orientation are of secondary significance.
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Keywords: ASTER; Taurus Mountains; Turkey; human impact; late Holocene; modern vegetation; mountainous ecosystems; pollen; remote sensing

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Physical and Regional Geography Research Group, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Celestijnenlaan 200E, 3001 Heverlee, Belgium 2: Archaeology Unit, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Blijde Inkomststraat 21, 3000 Leuven, Belgium

Publication date: 2007-11-01

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