High-resolution pollen, macrofossil and charcoal data, combined with accelerator mass spectrometry14C dating and multivariate analysis, were used to reconstruct Holocene vegetation and fire dynamics at UrioQuattrocchi, a small lake in the supra-mediterranean belt in the Nebrodi Mountains of Sicily (Italy). The data suggestthat after 10 000 cal a BP increasing moisture availability supported closed forests with deciduous (Quercus cerris,Fagus sylvatica and Fraxinus spp.) and evergreen (Quercus ilex) species. Species-rich closed forest persisted until6850 cal a BP, when Neolithic activities caused a forest decline and affected plant diversity. Secondary forest withabundant Ilex aquifolium recovered between 6650 and 6000 cal a BP, indicating moist conditions. From 5000 cal aBP, agriculture and pastoralism led to the currently fragmented landscape with sparse deciduous forests (Quercuscerris). The study suggests that evergreen broadleaved species were more important at elevations above 1000m a.s.l.before ca. 5000 cal a BP than subsequently. Despite human impact since Neolithic times, deciduous supramediterraneanforests were never completely displaced from the Nebrodi Mountains, because of favourable moistconditions that persisted throughout the Holocene. Reconstructed vegetation dynamics document the absence of anypronounced mid- or late-Holocene ‘aridification’ trend at the site, an issue which is controversially debated in Italy andthe Mediterranean region.
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