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Integrated palaeoecological and historical data in the service of fine-resolution land use and ecological change assessment during the last 1000 years in Rõuge, southern Estonia

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Abstract Aims 

Our aim is to reconstruct decadal scale development of historical landscapes during the last 1000 years by means of fossil pollen analysis of annually laminated lake sediments, and detailed historical maps and documents. Location 

Lake Rõuge Tõugjärv (Estonia), a small lake with annually laminated lake sediments situated in a dense prehistoric setting. Methods 

The chronology of the palaeodata is based on the annual laminations supported by AMS 14C and 210Pb dating and 137Cs, 241Am, and spheroidal carbonaceous particle marker horizons. The time-scale and resolution allows fine sampling (the pollen samples generally comprise 3.5 years) and vegetation change reconstruction. Relevant source area of pollen (RSAP) of the lake was estimated, and the statistical zonation, rate of change, palynological richness, and DCA and PCA ordinations were generated on the basis of the pollen data. The historical calibration data set (maps, numerical information on population, domestic stock, farmland division, etc.) is based on archival material preserved in the Estonian Historical Archives. Results 

The topmost part (0–180 cm) of the sediment column of Lake Rõuge Tõugjärv, covering the last 1000 years, is visibly laminated carbonaceous gyttja. The varve chronology extends fromad2000 toad1339, with a cumulative ± 9-year error estimate. Beyond this the chronology is extrapolated using the 14C date and varve age–depth estimations. The simulation of the RSAP of Lake Tõugjärv shows that the major portion of the pollen loading originating from local vegetation is derived from plants growing within 2000 m of the sampling site. The pollen record divides into five statistically significant subgroups, which fall on the PCA plot into three clusters reflecting the general openness–closedness of the landscape. During the period betweenad1000 and 1200 (RT 1) the Rõuge area was generally wooded with birch, spruce and pine forests. The advancement of extensive farming gradually opened up the landscape betweenad1200 and 1650 (RT 2 and RT 3). The maximum openness of the landscape was reached betweenad1650 and 1875 (RT 4), with the most open period in the late eighteenth century. Historical maps from 1684 and 1870–99 and available quantitative data on population, domestic stock, farmland division, etc. show the same trend. The pollen data covering the last 125 years, and maps from 1935 and 1995, show the reduction of arable land in RSAP of the lake under investigation and the reduction of open land to an extent comparable with the end of the seventeenth century. Main conclusions 

The formation and development of the cultural landscape at Rõuge over the last 1000 years is characterized by rapid changes in floristic richness and rates of vegetation change attributed to certain historic processes in the RSAP. Five phases of landscape and social development are clearly distinguished during the last 1000 years. The decadal scale vegetation response to human-induced forcing agrees with historical maps and documents and could be used for past landscapes prior to the period with solid historical data.
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Keywords: Annually laminated sediments; Estonia; development of agriculture; historical documents; historical maps; numerical analysis; pollen; vegetation history

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of History, Tartu University, Tartu, Estonia 2: Institute of Geology, Tallinn University of Technology, Tallinn, Estonia

Publication date: August 1, 2005

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