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Journal Article

Holocene timber-line dynamics at Bachalpsee, a lake at 2265 m a.s.l. in the northern Swiss Alps


Hofmann,  Wolfgang
Department Ecophysiology, Max Planck Institute for Limnology, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology, Max Planck Society;

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Lotter, A. F., Heiri, O., Hofmann, W., Van der Knaap, W. O., Van Leeuwen, J. F. N., Walker, I. R., et al. (2006). Holocene timber-line dynamics at Bachalpsee, a lake at 2265 m a.s.l. in the northern Swiss Alps. Vegetation History and Archaeobotany, 15(4), 295-307. doi:10.1007/s00334-006-0060-z.

Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-000F-D84E-3
Palaeobotanical analysis and radiocarbon dating of lake sediments from Bachalpsee (2265 m a.s.l.), a small lake above the present-day timber-line in the northern Swiss Alps reveals that the region was already deglaciated during the Younger Dryas. The sediment record is dominated by long-distance transported pollen that originates from lowland vegetation but the plant macrofossils give evidence of the local vegetation development. Comparison with palaeobotanical results from three sites along an altitudinal transect permits the reconstruction of the regional timber-line history. Throughout the entire Holocene the catchment of Bachalpsee consisted of a mosaic of open meadows and dwarf shrubs (Salix, Vaccinium, Rhododendron). Chironomid and cladoceran assemblages suggest that the early to mid-Holocene was the warmest interval at Bachalpsee. Comparison of the palaeobotanical results with those from the mire "Feld" (2130 m a.s.l.) in the vicinity of Bachalpsee showed that during the mid-Holocene the timber-line was formed by Pinus cembra and Picea abies with some scattered Abies alba trees and was situated close to Bachalpsee but never reached its catchment. The maximum timber-line in the Northern Alps was reached between 6000 and 3000 cal B.P. which is several millennia later than in the Central Alps. The species composition of the tree-line (Abies alba, Pinus cembra and the absence of Larix decidua) points to less continental and moister climatic conditions compared with the central Alps during the early to mid-Holocene. From 3000 cal B.P. onwards the timber-line was lowered by human deforestation with the most intense pulses of human impact occurring since the Middle Ages. The catchment of Bachalpsee has been used as alpine pasture since the Bronze Age.