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Transformation of West-Carpathian primeval woodlands into high-altitude grasslands from as early as the Bronze Age



Rok publikování 2023
Druh Článek v odborném periodiku
Časopis / Zdroj Vegetation History and Archaeobotany
Fakulta / Pracoviště MU

Přírodovědecká fakulta

Klíčová slova Human impact; Pollen analysis; Deforestation; Primeval woodlands; Transhumance; Western Carpathians
Popis The drivers of the long-term development of high-mountain woodlands are still unexplored in the central European mountains north of the Alps, where archaeologists and palaeoecologists traditionally report no significant human influences on vegetation before the late Middle Ages. Recent but fragmentary palaeoecological reports are gradually changing this paradigm. We analysed a peat profile from a high-elevation fen on the southern edge of the Western Carpathians, where proximity to warm lowlands may have facilitated prehistoric use of the higher elevations. We found that the formation of the studied fen in the Bronze Age could have been triggered by anthropogenic deforestation. This event is indicated by an extraordinarily high amount of micro- and macro-charcoals and the presence of secondary anthropogenic and open-landscape indicators. Grazing of the summit areas was further evidenced by records of spores of coprophilous fungi (Sporormiella, Sordaria-t. and Podospora-t.). As microcharcoals were present only in the prehistoric period and almost disappeared later (after ad 200), fires were likely used to deforest the range to obtain open land, which was later intensively grazed. Archaeological reports from the area, especially Bronze Age records from foothills and mountain basins, suggest that people settled in the vast area and might have needed to graze the nearby summit range during the summer. The most significant and abrupt transition from woodlands to grasslands coincided with the Mining and Wallachian colonisation waves. These waves altered the original course of the development and composition of mountain forests, highlighting their sensitivity to severe anthropogenic disturbance. In the last two centuries, the exploitation of the woodlands has decreased. Secondary succession, together with commercial planting, has led to the dominance of the Norway spruce. Together with the previous patchy record, our results call for a new paradigm to consider early prehistoric anthropogenic influences like grazing in the Central European high mountains. The history of treeless vegetation at higher altitudes is likely substantially older than has been thought so far.
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