, Volume 17, Issue 3, pp 251-267

Prehistoric Pinus woodland dynamics in an upland landscape in northern Scotland: the roles of climate change and human impact

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Abstract

Pollen, microscopic charcoal, palaeohydrological and dendrochronological analyses are applied to a radiocarbon and tephrochronologically dated mid Holocene (ca. 8500–3000 cal b.p.) peat sequence with abundant fossil Pinus (pine) wood. The Pinus populations on peat fluctuated considerably over the period in question. Colonisation by Pinus from ca. 7900–7600 cal b.p. appears to have had no specific environmental trigger; it was probably determined by the rate of migration from particular populations. The second phase, at ca. 5000–4400 cal b.p., was facilitated by anthropogenic interference that reduced competition from other trees. The pollen record shows two Pinus declines. The first at ca. 6200–5500 cal b.p. was caused by a series of rapid and frequent climatic shifts. The second, the so-called pine decline, was very gradual (ca. 4200–3300 cal b.p.) at Loch Farlary and may not have been related to climate change as is often supposed. Low intensity but sustained grazing pressures were more important. Throughout the mid Holocene, the frequency and intensity of burning in these open PinusCalluna woods were probably highly sensitive to hydrological (climatic) change. Axe marks on several trees are related to the mid to late Bronze Age, i.e., long after the trees had died.

Communicated by M. O'Connell.