Mid -and late- Holocene Vegetation and fire history at Biviere di Gela, a coastal lake in southern Sicily, Italy

Tommaso La Mantia, Elisa Vescovi, Roland Noti, Salvatore Pasta, Daniele Colombaroli, Salvatore Pasta, Salvatore Pasta, Willy Tinner, Jacqueline F.N. Van Leeuwen

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78 Citations (Scopus)


The vegetation and fire history of few coastal sites has been investigated in the Mediterranean region so far. We present the first paleoecological reconstruction fromcoastal Sicily, the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. We analysed pollen and charcoal in the sediments of Biviere di Gela, a lake (lagoon) on the south coast of Sicily. Our data suggest that the area became afforested after a marine transgression at ca. 7200 cal B.P. (5250 B.C.). Buildup of forest and shrublands took ca. 200–300 years, mainly with the deciduous trees Quercus, Ostrya and Fraxinus.Juniperus expanded ca. 6900 cal B.P. (4950 B.C.), butdeclined again 6600 cal B.P. (4650 B.C.). Afterwards, evergreentrees (Q. ilex-type and Olea) became dominant in theforest and Pistacia shrublands were established. Forest andshrubland reached a maximum ca. 7000–5000 cal B.P.(5050–3050 B.C.); subsequently forest declined in responseto human impact, which was probably exacerbated by ageneral trend towards a more arid climate. During the Neolithic,fire was used to open the landscape, significantlyreducing several arboreal taxa (Q. ilex, Fraxinus, Juniperus)and promoting herbs and shrubs (Achillea, Cichorioideae,Brassicaceae, Ephedra). Final forest disruption occurredaround 2600 cal B.P. (650 B.C.) with the onset of the historicallydocumented Greek colonization. We conclude that theopen maquis and garrigue vegetation of today is primarilythe consequence of intensive land-use over millennia. Undernatural or near-natural conditions arboreal taxa such asQ. ilex, Olea and Pistacia would be far more important thanthey are today, even under the hot and rather dry coastalconditions of southern Sicily.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)371-387
Number of pages16
JournalVegetation History and Archaeobotany
Publication statusPublished - 2009

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Archaeology
  • Plant Science
  • Palaeontology


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