From bog to fen: palaeoecological reconstruction of the development of a calcareous spring fen on Saaremaa, Estonia

Abstract

This study of the Kanna calcareous spring fen on Saaremaa, the largest island of Estonia, elucidates its history of fen development and vegetation diversity over the last 9,200 years. Pollen, spores, non-pollen palynomorphs, macrofossils, loss-on-ignition and humification index analyses were carried out to reconstruct fen succession, vegetation development, environmental changes and human impact. Hierarchical clustering, ordination analysis and linear regression were applied to examine the vegetation composition and richness patterns through time and to identify the potential environmental drivers underlying these patterns. Our results suggest reverse mire development from bog to fen, a rare occurrence and contrary to typical mire autogenic succession from groundwater fed to rainwater fed. Kanna developed as a small bog for the first 2,000 years from 9,200 to 7,200 cal yrs bp. Changes to the hydrological regime around 7,200 cal yrs bp, due to a warmer and drier climate and land uplift, caused a change from an ombrotrophic to a minerotrophic environment. Typical spring fen characteristics developed ca. 5,000 cal yrs bp and continued until ca. 400 cal yrs bp, when the fen was fed by calcareous mineral-rich groundwater and reached very high floristic diversity with various calciphilous and relict plant taxa. We conclude that general changes in the Kanna fen succession, vegetation community and diversity are associated with climatic changes. The present high diversity of the fen is a result of a long-term stable fen environment, which may have been even higher in the past. However, the pollen richness has decreased during the last 400 years, possibly due to human or natural factors.

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Acknowledgements

The authors are grateful to Mari Reitalu for comments on the recent history of the study site. We thank Hans Renssen for providing the simulated climate data. The research was carried out with the financial support of the Eesti Teadusagentuur (Estonian Research Council, PUT1173, IUT1-8, PRG323).

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Blaus, A., Reitalu, T., Amon, L. et al. From bog to fen: palaeoecological reconstruction of the development of a calcareous spring fen on Saaremaa, Estonia. Veget Hist Archaeobot 29, 373–391 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00334-019-00748-z

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Keywords

  • Calcareous fen
  • Mire succession
  • Holocene
  • Pollen richness
  • Climate
  • Human impact