Pollen-derived history of timber exploitation from the Roman period onwards in the Romanche valley, central French Alps

  • Nakagawa T
  • De Beaulieu J
  • Kitagawa H
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The history of forestry in the Romanche river valley, south-east of
Grenoble, France, is reconstructed for the past ca. 3000 years on the
basis of detailed pollen analysis and AMS C-14 dating. Three
deforestation phases are recorded during the last two millennia, each
phase showing different features and also contrasting woodland
succession in the post-clearance period. The first major deforestation
is recorded at the Roman time when Abies alba (fir) was selectively
exploited, presumably for use by peoples living downstream of the site.
Apart from the deforestation, there appears to have been little human
activity in the vicinity of the site at this time. After the clearance
fir gradually, and more or less fully, recovered. The second
deforestation phase occurred in ca. the 5th and 6th century A.D. when
there is also substantial evidence for local farming. At this time, both
fir and beech (Fagus sylvatica) were non-selectively exploited and
probably used locally. Beach subsequently recovers but there is no
further regeneration of fir. The third deforestation phase in ca. the
12th century A.D. is similar to the preceding phase but this time beech
does not recover. With the decline in human activity, secondary forest
that included spruce (Picea) and pine (Pinus), developed. Forest
dynamics were controlled by local human activity and also the economic
relationships between the local area and the wider region and especially
the region downstream from the site.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Abies alba
  • French alps
  • Human impact
  • Roman period
  • Woodland dynamics

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  • Takeshi Nakagawa

  • Jacques Louis De Beaulieu

  • Hiroyuki Kitagawa

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