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A comparative review of soil charcoal data: Spatiotemporal patterns of origin and long-term dynamics of Western European nutrient-poor grasslands

Abstract : The nutrient-poor grasslands of Western Europe are of major conservation concern because land use changes threaten their high biodiversity. Studies assessing their characteristics show that their past and ongoing dynamics are strongly related to human activities. Yet, the initial development patterns of this specific ecosystem remain unclear. Here, we examine findings from previous paleoecological investigations performed at local level on European grassland areas ranging from several hundred square meters to several square kilometers. Comparing data from these locally relevant studies at a regional scale, we investigate these grasslands' spatiotemporal patterns of origin and long-term dynamics. The study is based on taxonomic identification and radiocarbon AMS dating of charcoal pieces from soil/soil sediment archives of nutrient-poor grasslands in Mediterranean and temperate Western Europe (La Crau plain, Mont Lozère, Grands Causses, Vosges Mountains, Franconian Alb, and Upper-Normandy region). We address the following questions: (1) What are the key determinants of the establishment of these nutrient-poor grasslands? (2) What temporal synchronicities might there be? and (3) What is the spatial scale of these grasslands' past dynamics? The nutrient-poor grasslands in temperate Western Europe are found to result from the first anthropogenic woodland clearings during the late Neolithic, revealed by fire events in mesophilious mature forests. In contrast, the sites with Mediterranean affinities appear to have developed at earlier plant successional stages (pine forest, matorral), established before the first human impacts in the same period. However, no general pattern of establishment and dynamics of the nutrient-poor grasslands could be identified. Local mechanisms appear to be the key determinants of the dynamics of these ecosystems. Nevertheless, this paleoecological synthesis provides insights into past climate or human impacts on present-day vegetation.
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Submitted on : Wednesday, May 9, 2018 - 10:27:57 AM
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Vincent Robin, Oliver Nelle, Brigitte Talon, Peter Poschlod, Dominique Schwartz, et al.. A comparative review of soil charcoal data: Spatiotemporal patterns of origin and long-term dynamics of Western European nutrient-poor grasslands. The Holocene, 2018, 28 (8), pp.1313-1324. ⟨10.1177/0959683618771496⟩. ⟨hal-01788510⟩



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