Articles | Volume 5, issue 4
Clim. Past, 5, 725–767, 2009

Special issue: Data/model interactions: the biological perspective of understanding...

Clim. Past, 5, 725–767, 2009

  01 Dec 2009

01 Dec 2009

Pollen-based biome reconstructions for Latin America at 0, 6000 and 18 000 radiocarbon years ago

R. Marchant1, A. Cleef2, S. P. Harrison3, H. Hooghiemstra2, V. Markgraf4, J. van Boxel2, T. Ager5, L. Almeida6, R. Anderson7, C. Baied8, H. Behling9, J. C. Berrio10, R. Burbridge10, S. Björck11, R. Byrne12, M. Bush13, J. Duivenvoorden2, J. Flenley14, P. De Oliveira15, B. van Geel2, K. Graf16, W. D. Gosling17, S. Harbele18, T. van der Hammen19, B. Hansen20, S. Horn21, P. Kuhry22, M.-P. Ledru23, F. Mayle24, B. Leyden25, S. Lozano-García26, A. M. Melief27, P. Moreno28, N. T. Moar29, A. Prieto30, G. van Reenen2, M. Salgado-Labouriau31, F. Schäbitz32, E. J. Schreve-Brinkman33, and M. Wille34 R. Marchant et al.
  • 1The York Institute for Tropical Ecosystem Dynamics (KITE), Environment Department, University of York, York, Heslington, YO10 5DD, UK
  • 2Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics (IBED), Faculty of Science, University of Amsterdam, Postbus 94062, 1090 GB Amsterdam, The Netherlands
  • 3Bristol Research Initiative for the Dynamic Global Environment (BRIDGE), School of Geographical Sciences, University Road, University of Bristol, Bristol BS8 1SS, UK
  • 4INSTAAR, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO 80309, USA
  • 5USGS, National Centre, MS 970, Reston, VA 22092, USA
  • 6Laboratorio Biogeografía, Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Aptdo Postal 70-296, 04510 México D.F., Mexico
  • 7Department of Geography, University of Montana, Missoula, Montana 59812-1018, USA
  • 8Environmental Studies Program, University of Montana, Missoula Montana 59812, USA
  • 9Georg-August-Universität, Albrecht-von-Haller-Institut für Pflanzenwissenschaften, Abteilung Palynologie und Klimadynamik, Untere Karspüle 2, 37073 Göttingen, Germany
  • 10Department of Geography, University Road, University of Leicester, LE1 7RH, UK
  • 11Geological Institute, University of Copenhagen, Øster Volgade 10, 1350 Copenhagen, Denmark
  • 12Department of Geography, University of California, Berkeley, California 94720-4740, USA
  • 13Dept. of Biological Sciences, Florida Institute of Technology, 150 W. University Boulevard, Melbourne, FL 32905, USA
  • 14Department of Geography, Massey University, Palmerston, New Zealand
  • 15Instituto de Geociencias-DPE, Universidade de São Paulo, Caixa Postal 11348, São Paulo, SP 05422-970, Brazil
  • 16Geographisches Institut der Universität, Winterthürerstra{ß}e 190, 8057 Zürich, Switzerland
  • 17Dept. of Earth and Environmental Sciences, CEPSA, The Open University, Walton Hall, Milton Keynes, MK7 6AA, UK
  • 18Department of Archaeology and Natural History, College of Asia and the Pacific, Australian National University, Canberra, ACT 0200, Australia
  • 19Fundación Tropenbos Colombia, Carrera 21 # 39-35, Santafe de Bogotá, Colombia
  • 20Limnological Research Centre, University of Minnesota, 220 Pillsbury Hall, 310 Pillsbury Drive, Minneapolis, MN 55455-0219, USA
  • 21Arctic Centre, University of Lapland, PL 122, 96101 Rovaniemi, Finland
  • 22Department of Geography, University of Tennessee, 408 G&G Building, Knoxville, TN 37996-1420, USA
  • 23Equipe Paléoenvironements, Institut des Sciences de l'Evolution Institut de Recherche pour le Developement, Montpellier, France
  • 24Geography Building, Drummond Street, Edinburgh, EH8 9XP, UK
  • 25Department of Geology, University of South Florida, 4202 East Fowler Avenue, SCA 203, Tampa, FL 33620-5200, USA
  • 26Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Instituto de Geología, Aptdo Postal 70-296, 04510 México D.F., Mexico
  • 272E Oosterparkstraat 163A, 1092 BE Amsterdam, The Netherlands
  • 28Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad de Chile, Casilla 653, Santiago, Chile
  • 29Botany Division, D.S.I.R., Private Bag, Christchurch, New Zealand
  • 30Laboratorio de Palinologia, National Universidad Mar del Plata, Dept. de Biologia, Funes 3250, 7600 Mar del Plata, Argentina
  • 31Inst. de Geociencias, Fundação Universidade do Brazilia, Campus Universitario, Asa Norte, 0910-900, DF Brazilia, Brazil
  • 32Geographisches Institut, Universität Bamberg, Am Kranen 1, 96045 Bamberg, Germany
  • 33Welbergsweg 8, 7495 SZ Delden, The Netherlands
  • 34Geographisches Institut, Universität Essen, Essen, Germany

Abstract. The biomisation method is used to reconstruct Latin American vegetation at 6000±500 and 18 000±1000 radiocarbon years before present (14C yr BP) from pollen data. Tests using modern pollen data from 381 samples derived from 287 locations broadly reproduce potential natural vegetation. The strong temperature gradient associated with the Andes is recorded by a transition from high altitude cool grass/shrubland and cool mixed forest to mid-altitude cool temperate rain forest, to tropical dry, seasonal and rain forest at low altitudes. Reconstructed biomes from a number of sites do not match the potential vegetation due to local factors such as human impact, methodological artefacts and mechanisms of pollen representivity of the parent vegetation.

At 6000±500 14C yr BP 255 samples are analysed from 127 sites. Differences between the modern and the 6000±500 14C yr BP reconstruction are comparatively small; change relative to the modern reconstruction are mainly to biomes characteristic of drier climate in the north of the region with a slight more mesic shift in the south. Cool temperate rain forest remains dominant in western South America. In northwestern South America a number of sites record transitions from tropical seasonal forest to tropical dry forest and tropical rain forest to tropical seasonal forest. Sites in Central America show a change in biome assignment, but to more mesic vegetation, indicative of greater plant available moisture, e.g. on the Yucatán peninsula sites record warm evergreen forest, replacing tropical dry forest and warm mixed forest presently recorded.

At 18 000±1000 14C yr BP 61 samples from 34 sites record vegetation reflecting a generally cool and dry environment. Cool grass/shrubland is prevalent in southeast Brazil whereas Amazonian sites record tropical dry forest, warm temperate rain forest and tropical seasonal forest. Southernmost South America is dominated by cool grass/shrubland, a single site retains cool temperate rain forest indicating that forest was present at some locations at the LGM. Some sites in Central Mexico and lowland Colombia remain unchanged in the biome assignments of warm mixed forest and tropical dry forest respectively, although the affinities that these sites have to different biomes do change between 18 000±1000 14C yr BP and present. The "unresponsive" nature of these sites results from their location and the impact of local edaphic influence.