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Driving forces of mid-Holocene vegetation shifts on the upper Tibetan Plateau, with emphasis on changes in atmospheric CO2 concentrations

  • Numerous pollen records across the upper Tibetan Plateau indicate that in the early part of the mid-Holocene, Kobresia-rich high-alpine meadows invaded areas formerly dominated by alpine steppe vegetation rich in Artemisia. We examine climate, land-use, and CO2 concentration changes as potential drivers for this marked vegetation change. The climatic implications of these vegetational shifts are explored by applying a newly developed pollen-based moisture-balance transfer-function to fossil pollen spectra from Koucha Lake on the north-eastern Tibetan Plateau (34.0 degrees N; 97.2 degrees E; 4540 m a.s.l.) and Xuguo Lake on the central Tibetan Plateau (31.97 degrees N; 90.3 degrees E; 4595 m a.s.l.), both located in the meadow-steppe transition zone. Reconstructed moisture-balances were markedly reduced (by similar to 150-180 mm) during the early mid-Holocene compared to the late-Holocene. These findings contradict most other records from the Indian monsoonal realm and also most non-pollen records from the Tibetan Plateau that indicateNumerous pollen records across the upper Tibetan Plateau indicate that in the early part of the mid-Holocene, Kobresia-rich high-alpine meadows invaded areas formerly dominated by alpine steppe vegetation rich in Artemisia. We examine climate, land-use, and CO2 concentration changes as potential drivers for this marked vegetation change. The climatic implications of these vegetational shifts are explored by applying a newly developed pollen-based moisture-balance transfer-function to fossil pollen spectra from Koucha Lake on the north-eastern Tibetan Plateau (34.0 degrees N; 97.2 degrees E; 4540 m a.s.l.) and Xuguo Lake on the central Tibetan Plateau (31.97 degrees N; 90.3 degrees E; 4595 m a.s.l.), both located in the meadow-steppe transition zone. Reconstructed moisture-balances were markedly reduced (by similar to 150-180 mm) during the early mid-Holocene compared to the late-Holocene. These findings contradict most other records from the Indian monsoonal realm and also most non-pollen records from the Tibetan Plateau that indicate a rather wet early- and mid-Holocene. The extent and timing of anthropogenic land-use involving grazing by large herbivores on the upper Tibetan Plateau and its possible impacts on high-alpine vegetation are still mostly unknown due to the lack of relevant archaeological evidence. Arguments against a mainly anthropogenic origin of Kobresia high-alpine meadows are the discovery of the widespread expansion of obviously 'natural' Kobresia meadows on the south-eastern Tibetan Plateau during the Lateglacial period indicating the natural origin of this vegetation type and the lack of any concurrence between modern human-driven vegetation shifts and the mid-Holocene compositional changes. Vegetation types are known to respond to atmospheric CO2 concentration changes, at least on glacial-interglacial scales. This assumption is confirmed by our sensitivity study where we model Tibetan vegetation at different CO2 concentrations of 375 (present-day), 260 (early Holocene), and 650 ppm (future scenario) using the BIOME4 global vegetation model. Previous experimental studies confirm that vegetation growing on dry and high sites is particularly sensitive to CO2 changes. Here we propose that the replacement of drought-resistant alpine steppes (that are well adapted to low CO2 concentrations) by mesic Kobresia meadows can, at least, be partly interpreted as a response to the increase of CO2 concentration since 7000 years ago due to fertilization and water-saving effects. Our hypothesis is corroborated by former CO2 fertilization experiments performed on various dry grasslands and by the strong recent expansion of high-alpine meadows documented by remote sensing studies in response to recent CO2 increases.show moreshow less

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Metadaten
Author:Ulrike HerzschuhORCiDGND, Jian Ni, H. John B. Birks, Jürgen Böhner
DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.quascirev.2011.03.007
ISSN:0277-3791 (print)
Parent Title (English):Quaternary science reviews : the international multidisciplinary research and review journal
Publisher:Elsevier
Place of publication:Oxford
Document Type:Article
Language:English
Year of first Publication:2011
Year of Completion:2011
Release Date:2017/03/26
Tag:Atmospheric CO2 concentration; Holocene; Kobresia meadow; Pollen; Tibetan Plateau; Transfer function
Volume:30
Issue:15-16
Pagenumber:11
First Page:1907
Last Page:1917
Funder:German Research Foundation
Organizational units:Mathematisch-Naturwissenschaftliche Fakultät / Institut für Erd- und Umweltwissenschaften
Peer Review:Referiert