Vegetation History and Archaeobotany

, Volume 13, Issue 1, pp 1–22 | Cite as

Vegetation of the Lago de Sanabria area (NW Iberia) since the end of the Pleistocene: a palaeoecological reconstruction on the basis of two new pollen sequences

  • Castor Muñoz SobrinoEmail author
  • Pablo Ramil-Rego
  • Luis Gómez-Orellana
Original Article


Various pollen sequences from lacustrine deposits close to Lago de Sanabria (NW Iberia) have for several decades been a key source of information for palaeoenvironmental reconstructions of SW Europe, though their interpretation has been the subject of some controversy. Here we present two new pollen sequences obtained from this area, and a new palaeoenvironmental reconstruction of the region. The available pollen data reach back to before 18,000 b.p., a period of very harsh climate with seasonal (non continuous) sedimentation and a landscape characterised by herbaceous formations dominated by Gramineae and Artemisia, and scrub formations dominated by Ericaceae and Cistaceae. Subsequently sedimentation became continuous, and various regional forest expansions are apparent. At a local level, the first forest expansion began about 12,000 b.p., when Betula pollen reached 70% followed by peaks in Pinus sylvestris-type (>80%) and Quercus robur-type (40%). The Younger Dryas saw a retreat of woodland formations in the area around the lake, with broadleaved deciduous woodland (largely oak) retreating at mid and low altitudes, but with pine woodland persisting in more sheltered sites. The climatic improvement in the Early Holocene favoured re-expansion of woodland, dominated by Pinus sylvestris-type at higher and Quercus robur and Q. pyrenaica at lower altitudes, until anthropogenic deforestation commenced around 4,000 b.p. The disappearance of natural pine woodlands in this region is probably largely attributable to human interference.


Sanabria Marsh Upper Pleistocene Holocene Climate change Vegetation dynamics Northwest Iberia 



This study was carried out as part of projects Ministerio de Ciencia y Tecnología REN2002–02271/GLO and Xunta de Galicia PGIDIT01PAT29101PR. The research work of the first author was supported by the SXID (Xunta de Galicia) during the last six months. We thank the staff of the Parque Natural del Lago de Sanabria for information and facilities provided during this work, G. Norman who translated the text, C.R. Janssen, W.O. van der Knaap and F. Bittmann who offered useful criticism of the manuscript and M.A. Rodríguez Guitián and A.F. Lotter for helpful remarks.


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© Springer-Verlag 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Castor Muñoz Sobrino
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Pablo Ramil-Rego
    • 1
  • Luis Gómez-Orellana
    • 1
  1. 1.Laboratorio de Botánica and Biogeografía, Departamento de Botánica, Escola Politécnica SuperiorUniversidade de Santiago de Compostela LugoSpain
  2. 2.Departamento de Bioloxía Vexetal e Ciencias do Solo, Facultade de CienciasUniversidade de VigoVigoSpain

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