Vegetation History and Archaeobotany

, Volume 21, Issue 4–5, pp 385–396 | Cite as

Vegetation dynamics and anthropogenically forced changes in the Estanilles peat bog (southern Pyrenees) during the last seven millennia

  • Ramon Pérez-ObiolEmail author
  • Marie-Claude Bal
  • Albert Pèlachs
  • Raquel Cunill
  • Joan Manuel Soriano
Original Article


Estanilles peat bog, located in the northeastern Iberian peninsula, was studied to determine the anthropogenic changes in the landscape over the past seven millennia. The pollen diagram and sedimentary charcoal analyses from this site permit us to reconstruct the landscape changes in an area of both Mediterranean and Atlantic influence. In addition, Montarenyo ombrotrophic peat bog was studied to strengthen the analysis of data from more recent centuries. This paper attempts a reconstruction of historical cultural landscapes using two complementary palaeobotanical proxies (pollen and charcoal) in high mountain environments. The macroscopic charcoal record shows a fire signal since 7500 cal. b.p. However, the relationship between fire frequency and human impact is not always linear. This divergence is linked to fuel availability and fire activity. Fire has been used repeatedly to clear ground and to maintain open areas, and has been a key tool for the management of these high mountain areas. The intensity of use of the landscape implies the expansion of agricultural areas into higher altitudes, including cereal cultivation above 2,200 m a.s.l., during the Middle Ages. The first clear human influence detected in the pollen percentage data is recorded between 6000 and 7000 cal. b.p. and, until present times, the greatest changes in vegetation and landscape history occurred during periods of particular specialization in socioeconomic activities during the Middle Ages.


Anthropic action Pollen Sedimentary charcoal Holocene Fire Pyrenees 



This article has benefited from funding provided by the Catalan government (Generalitat de Catalunya) for the Applied Geography Group (2009SGR00106) and Palynological Research Group (2009 SGR 1102) and by the Ministry of Education Science (MEC) for the project entitled “Los paisajes de las áreas de montaña. Patrones de gestión y de ocupación del territorio [CSO2009-08271 (subprograma GEOG)]” and “Cambios tecno-culturales y de paisaje en la transición Pleistoceno-Holoceno en las zonas de influencia mediterránea de la Península Ibérica (II) (HAR2008-01984/HIST).” In addition, Raquel Cunill was supported by a fellowship from the Generalitat de Catalunya. Finally, the authors thank Elaine Lilly, Ph.D., of Writer’s First Aid for English translation and language revision.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ramon Pérez-Obiol
    • 1
    Email author
  • Marie-Claude Bal
    • 2
  • Albert Pèlachs
    • 3
  • Raquel Cunill
    • 3
    • 4
  • Joan Manuel Soriano
    • 3
  1. 1.Unitat de Botànica, Facultat de BiociènciesUniversitat Autònoma de BarcelonaBarcelonaSpain
  2. 2.GEOLAB, UMR/CNRS 6042, Département de Geógraphie, Faculté des Lettres et des Sciences HumainesLimogesFrance
  3. 3.GRAMP (Grup de Recerca en Àrees de Muntanya i Paisatge), Departament de Geografia, Edifici BUniversitat Autònoma de BarcelonaBarcelonaSpain
  4. 4.Laboratoire GEODE, UMR 5602 CNRSUniversité Toulouse Le MirailToulouse CedexFrance

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