Many European mires show a layer of increased decomposition and minerogenic content close to the mire surface. Although the phenomenon is widely recognised, there have been few investigations of its distribution, cause and effect. In this study, nine peat profiles from the Alps and Jura Mountains in central Europe were studied to assess general trends in the upper peat stratigraphy. Analyses of pollen and fungal spore content in two profiles indicates that near-surface changes in decomposition are related to recent historical changes in grazing intensity of the surrounding landscape. Reduced trampling pressure and/or decreased nutrient input allowed partial Sphagnum regeneration in the western Alps and Jura Mountains from AD 1940–60, and in the eastern Alps from AD 1820–60. The results are considered in the context of climate and land use, and future implications for mire development in a changing environment are discussed. Many high-altitude mires in the area are now in a Sphagnum peat re-growth state, but future land use and climatic change will determine whether they will develop towards raised bog or forest carr.
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