Articles | Volume 12, issue 2
Research article
01 Mar 2016
Research article |  | 01 Mar 2016

Impacts of climate and humans on the vegetation in northwestern Turkey: palynological insights from Lake Iznik since the Last Glacial

Andrea Miebach, Phoebe Niestrath, Patricia Roeser, and Thomas Litt

Abstract. The Marmara region in northwestern Turkey provides a unique opportunity for studying the vegetation history in response to climate changes and anthropogenic impacts because of its location between different climate and vegetation zones and its long settlement history. Geochemical and mineralogical investigations of the largest lake in the region, Lake Iznik, already registered climate-related changes of the lake level and the lake mixing. However, a palynological investigation encompassing the Late Pleistocene to Middle Holocene was still missing. Here, we present the first pollen record of the last ca. 31 ka cal BP (calibrated kilo years before 1950) inferred from Lake Iznik sediments as an independent proxy for paleoecological reconstructions. Our study reveals that the vegetation in the Iznik area changed generally between (a) steppe during glacials and stadials indicating dry and cold climatic conditions, (b) forest-steppe during interstadials indicating milder and moister climatic conditions, and (c) oak-dominated mesic forest during interglacials indicating warm and moist climatic conditions. Moreover, a pronounced succession of pioneer trees, cold temperate, warm temperate, and Mediterranean trees appeared since the Lateglacial. Rapid climate changes, which are reflected by vegetation changes, can be correlated with Dansgaard-Oeschger (DO) events such as DO-4, DO-3, and DO-1, the Younger Dryas, and probably also the 8.2 event. Since the mid-Holocene, the vegetation was influenced by anthropogenic activities. During early settlement phases, the distinction between climate-induced and human-induced changes of the vegetation is challenging. Still, evidence for human activities consolidates since the Early Bronze Age (ca. 4.8 ka cal BP): cultivated trees, crops, and secondary human indicator taxa appeared, and forests were cleared. Subsequent fluctuations between extensive agricultural uses and regenerations of the natural vegetation become apparent.

Short summary
We analyze the vegetation and climate in northwestern Turkey during the last ca. 31 000 years based on a new pollen data set from lacustrine sediment cores. The study reveals vegetation responses to long-term and rapid climate changes. Moreover, it documents human activities in the catchment of Lake Iznik and shows a clear anthropogenic impact on the vegetation since the Early Bronze Age.