Vegetation History and Archaeobotany

, Volume 19, Issue 3, pp 219–233 | Cite as

A new Late-glacial and Holocene record of vegetation and fire history from Lago del Greppo, northern Apennines, Italy

  • Elisa VescoviEmail author
  • Brigitta Ammann
  • Cesare Ravazzi
  • Willy Tinner
Original Article


Detailed Late-glacial and Holocene palaeoenvironmental records from the northern Apennines with a robust chronology are still rare, though the region has been regarded as a main area of potential refugia of important trees such as Picea abies and Abies alba. We present a new high-resolution pollen and stomata record from Lago del Greppo (1,442 m a.s.l., Pistoia, northern Apennines) that has been dated relying on 12 terrestrial plant macrofossils. Late-glacial woodlands became established before 13000 cal b.p. and were dominated by Pinus and Betula, although more thermophilous taxa such as Quercus, Tilia and Ulmus were already present in the Greppo area, probably at lower altitudes. Abies and Picea expanded locally at the onset of the Holocene at ca. 11500 cal b.p. Fagus sylvatica was the last important tree to expand at ca. 6500 cal b.p., following the decline of Abies. Human impact was generally low throughout the Holocene, and the local woods remained rather closed until the most recent time, ca. a.d. 1700–1800. The vegetational history of Lago del Greppo appears consistent with that of previous investigations in the study region. Late-glacial and Holocene vegetation dynamics in the northern Apennines are very similar to those in the Insubrian southern Alps bordering Switzerland and Italy, across the Po Plain. Similarities between the two areas include the Late-glacial presence of Abies alba, its strong dominance during the Holocene across different vegetation belts from the lowlands to high elevations, as well as its final fire and human-triggered reduction during the mid Holocene. Our new data suggest that isolated and minor Picea abies populations survived the Late-glacial in the foothills of the northern Apennines and that at the onset of the Holocene they moved upwards, reaching the site of Lago del Greppo. Today stands of Picea abies occur only in two small areas in the highest part of the northern Apennines, and they have become extinct elsewhere. Given the forecast global warming, these relict Picea abies stands of the northern Apennines, which have a history of at least 13,000 years, appear severely endangered.


Northern Apennines Late-glacial Holocene Pollen analysis Abies alba Picea abies 



We are grateful to the participants to the XXX International Moor Excursion that visited the site in 2006 for fruitful discussions and useful suggestions and especially for the advice of F. Bittmann for improving the Late-glacial chronology. M. Donegana, G. Tanzi, L. Pacifico, H.E. Wright, Willi and Mike Tanner are gratefully acknowledged for help during coring and F. Oberli for laboratory assistance. Improvements to the manuscript by H.E. Wright and two anonymous reviewers are grateful acknowledged. We are grateful to Swiss National Science Foundation, which financed this study (SNF Nr3100A0-101218) and to Corpo Forestale dello Stato—Ufficio Territoriale per la Biodiversità di Pistoia and “le Guardie forestali del Posto Fisso dell’Abetone” for the permission and for assistance during the coring.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Elisa Vescovi
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Brigitta Ammann
    • 1
  • Cesare Ravazzi
    • 2
  • Willy Tinner
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of Plant Sciences and Oeschger Centre for Climate Change ResearchUniversity of BernBernSwitzerland
  2. 2.C.N.R., Institute for the Environmental DynamicsDalmineItaly

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