Vegetation History and Archaeobotany

, Volume 9, Issue 2, pp 85–89 | Cite as

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

  • Takeshi Nakagawa
  • Jacques-Louis de Beaulieu
  • Hiroyuki Kitagawa


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 AMS14C 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 whenAbies 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.

Key words

Abies alba French Alps Human impact Roman period Woodland dynamics 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Takeshi Nakagawa
    • 1
  • Jacques-Louis de Beaulieu
    • 1
  • Hiroyuki Kitagawa
    • 2
  1. 1.Institut Méditerranéen d'Ecologie et Paléoécologie, Boite 451, Faculté de St-JérômeUniversité d'Aix-Marseille IIIMarseille, Cedex 20France
  2. 2.Institute for Hydrospheric Atmospheric SciencesNagoya UniversityNagoyaJapan

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