Articles | Volume 12, issue 2
Research article
15 Feb 2016
Research article |  | 15 Feb 2016

7300 years of vegetation history and climate for NW Malta: a Holocene perspective

B. Gambin, V. Andrieu-Ponel, F. Médail, N. Marriner, O. Peyron, V. Montade, T. Gambin, C. Morhange, D. Belkacem, and M. Djamali

Abstract. This paper investigates the Holocene vegetation dynamics for Burmarrad in Northwest Malta and provides a pollen-based quantitative palaeoclimatic reconstruction for this centrally located Mediterranean archipelago. The pollen record from this site provides new insight into the vegetation changes from 7280 to 1730 cal BP which correspond well with other regional records. The climate reconstruction for the area also provides strong correlation with southern (below 40° N) Mediterranean sites. Our interpretation suggests an initially open landscape during the early Neolithic, surrounding a large palaeobay, developing into a dense Pistacia scrubland ca. 6700 cal BP. From about 4450 cal BP the landscape once again becomes open, coinciding with the start of the Bronze Age on the archipelago. This period is concurrent with increased climatic instability (between 4500 and 3700 cal BP) which is followed by a gradual decrease in summer moisture availability in the late Holocene. During the early Roman occupation period (1972–1730 cal BP) the landscape remains generally open with a moderate increase in Olea. This increase corresponds to archaeological evidence for olive oil production in the area, along with increases in cultivated crop taxa and associated ruderal species, as well as a rise in fire events. The Maltese archipelago provides important insight into vegetation, human impacts, and climatic changes in an island context during the Holocene.

Short summary
Based on the study of ancient microfossils, such as pollen and spores, this paper explores climate change in a Mediterranean island context. Using a multi-disciplinary approach this original research corroborates existing archaeological and historical data. It also uses comparative data from elsewhere in the central Mediterranean to ensure that the current research is placed within the appropriate geographic context.