, Volume 30, Issue 3, pp 333-342

The Holocene palaeolimnology of Sägistalsee and its environmental history – a synthesis

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Multi-proxy palaeoecological and palaeolimnological studies of the sedimentary record of Sägistalsee, a small lake at the present-day timberline in the Swiss Alps, reveal distinct changes in its catchment vegetation in relation to Holocene climate change and human impact. Four phases of catchment vegetation type were defined based on plant macrofossil analyses: open Betula-Pinus cembra woodland, Abies alba-Pinus cembra woodland, Picea abies forest, and cultural pasture. The expansion of spruce ∽ 6300 cal. BP had a major impact on all abiotic proxies, whereas the reaction of the biotic proxies to this catchment change was lagged by several centuries. During the Bronze Age (ca. 4000 cal. BP) the spruce forest was cleared and the catchment began to be used as grazing pastures. Changes in sedimentology, geochemistry, and magnetic parameters closely reflect the changes in catchment vegetation. The catchment vegetation types explain a statistically significant amount of the variance in the chironomid, cladoceran, sedimentological, and magnetic data but not in the geochemical data. The strong catchment-lake interaction masks any biotic responses to millennium-scale climatic oscillations.