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Lateglacial/Holocene environmental changes in the Mediterranean Alps inferred from lacustrine sediments

Abstract : This study investigates sediment cores from the Mediterranean alpine lakes located in upvalley cirques upper than 1700 metres a.s.l. using sedimentological, palynological and geomorphological studies, in order to document environmental changes following the last phase of glacier retreat. These results are considered in the framework of the deglaciation characterized from 16 sediment cores from high-altitude lakes and mires including 104 14C ages and geomorphological studies of the Mediterranean Alps. Considering each sediment core proxy as an independent observation, i.e., comparisons between 14C ages and palynostratigraphy, between 14C ages and lithostratigraphy, between palynostratigraphy and lithostratigraphy, these data are aimed at contributing to a better understanding of the timing of postglacial environmental changes. The 14C ages combined with pollen biostratigraphy indicate that the deglaciation of cirque catchments is dated between 14,500 and 13,000 cal. BP, i.e., during the Lateglacial Interstadial (Greenland Interstadial-1e). The sixteen lacustrine and mire sediment records are systematically characterized by three units from bottom to top: organic-poor blue clay, beige to light-brown silty clay and organic rich dark brown gyttja lithotype. During the Younger Dryas, lakes located below 2300 m a.s.l. were ice-free and their pollen record indicates steppe conditions. The sedimentary facies also informs on the timing of glacial-dominated processes. The onset of organic-rich gyttja is dated at 11,000 cal. BP suggesting the last influence of cirque glaciers in these lakes at the beginning of the Holocene. The timing of the onset of this organic rich unit differs in sites (±2000 years) probably due to an altitudinal and exposure gradient of the glacial cirques. The presence of gyttja from 11,000 cal. BP to Present indicates biogenic infilling lake for all the Holocene. Even though the literature have indicated rock glacier advances occurred during the Holocene (Subboreal and LIA) in the south of the Alps, no significant sedimentological patterns related to glacier fluctuations are recorded in Lake Vens. The glacier fluctuations in the Mediterranean Alps are concomitant with those dated in the non-Mediterranean Alps, thus suggesting a main common climate forcing. However, the increase in terrigenous sediment inputs since 1800 cal. BP is mainly due to human activities.
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Elodie Brisset, Frédéric Guiter, Cécile Miramont, Marie Revel, Edward Anthony, et al.. Lateglacial/Holocene environmental changes in the Mediterranean Alps inferred from lacustrine sediments. Quaternary Science Reviews, Elsevier, 2015, 110, pp.49-71. ⟨10.1016/j.quascirev.2014.12.004⟩. ⟨hal-02046338⟩



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