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Peat bank growth, Holocene palaeoecology and climate history of South Georgia (sub-Antarctica), based on a botanical macrofossil record

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Abstract

Botanical macrofossil analysis of a more than 9000 years old, radiocarbon dated peat sequence of a moss peat bank from South Georgia, shows a clear evolution in the vegetation. Seven ecological phases could be distinguished and they can be interpreted in terms of climate development during the Holocene. Until 2200 years ago, Warnstorfia fontinaliopsis was the dominant moss species pointing to a wet environment. Lower numbers of this species in association with the presence of drier species are assumed to indicate drier periods, such as occurring between ca 6000-5200 and 4400-3400 cal yr BP. The most prominent and definitive vegetation change took place around 2200 cal yr BP. A Polytrichum-Chorisodontium moss peat bank was formed, which is still growing there today. The forcing mechanism for this vegetation change is thought to be a temperature decrease, rather than a precipitation decrease. This conclusion is mainly based on the fact that, today, moss peat banks have their optimal occurrence range in the maritime Antarctic, a region were the mean annual temperature is ca 4 °C lower than on South Georgia. The remarkable change in the moss bank vegetation at 2200 cal yr BP raises the question whether this moment was only a short climatic deterioration, or a definitive change to a cooler and wetter climate after a Holocene climatic optimum period. © 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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Van der Putten, N., Verbruggen, C., Ochyra, R., Spassov, S., de Beaulieu, J. L., De Dapper, M., … Thouveny, N. (2009). Peat bank growth, Holocene palaeoecology and climate history of South Georgia (sub-Antarctica), based on a botanical macrofossil record. Quaternary Science Reviews, 28(1–2), 65–79. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.quascirev.2008.09.023

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