Journal of Paleolimnology

, Volume 14, Issue 1, pp 23-47

First online:

Late-glacial pollen and diatom changes in response to two different environmental perturbations: volcanic eruption and Younger Dryas cooling

  • A. F. LotterAffiliated withSwiss Federal Institute for Environmental Science and Technology (EAWAG)Geobotanik, Universität Bern
  • , H. J. B. BirksAffiliated withBotanical Institute, University of BergenEnvironmental Change Research Centre, University College London
  • , B. ZolitschkaAffiliated withFachbereich VI, Geologie, Universität TrierGeoForschungsZentrum

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access


A high-resolution pollen and diatom stratigraphy has been studied from late-glacial annually laminated sediments of Holzmaar (425 m a.s.l., Germany). The sediment sequence studied comprises 475 varves and includes two environmental perturbations of different type and duration: the short, abrupt deposition of the late Allerød tephra layer of the Laacher See volcano (LST, 11 000 yr B.P.), and the more gradual onset of the 'Younger Dryas climatic cooling.

Numerical analyses involving (partial) redundancy analyses in connection with Monte Carlo permutation tests suggest that the deposition of 78 mm of Laacher See Tephra had a statistically significant effect on the pollen stratigraphy (percentage and accumulation rates), most probably because of the proximity of the site to the volcano. The diatom accumulation rates also show a statistically significant change, whereas the diatom percentage data do not change significantly. The between-sample rates-of-change in both biostratigraphies are higher at and just after the LST event than at the transition to the Younger Dryas biozone. Sequence splitting of pollen and diatom accumulation rate data also shows a clustering of significant splits at the LST event. A close correlation between changes in the pollen and diatom percentage data for the investigated time-interval suggests a common underlying climatic signal, whereas the accumulation rates of both biostratigraphies behave more individualistically and show more short-term variability due, in part, to the inherent noise in the two data sets. Variance partitioning shows that the local pollen and diatom assemblage zones explain much of the variance in the data-sets. Statistical modelling using redundancy analysis shows that the changes in the diatom assemblages are best predicted by the Younger Dryas biozone and the main changes in the pollen stratigraphy (as represented by the first PCA axis of the pollen data).

The results suggest that the biostratigraphies studied at Holzmaar reflect generally stable systems which were disturbed by the deposition of the Laacher See Tephra. After a phase of recovery both systems again reached a new phase of stability prior to the long-term Younger Dryas climatic deterioration that perturbed the assemblages again. The very close and statistically significant parallelism between the major stratigraphical patterns in the pollen and diatom percentage data highlights the responses of the two biological systems to environmental perturbations at different temporal scales.

Key words

Younger Dryas pollen diatoms varves laminated sediment Laacher See Tephra Holzmaar rates of change sequence splitting variance partitioning redundancy analysis