Anthropogenic and environmental drivers of vegetation change in southeastern Norway during the Holocene
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionQuaternary Science Reviews. 2021, 270, 107175. 10.1016/j.quascirev.2021.107175
Uncovering anthropogenic and environmental drivers behind past biological change requires integrated analyses of long-term records from a diversity of disciplines. We applied an interdisciplinary approach exploring effects of human land-use and environmental changes on vegetation dynamics at Lake Ljøgottjern in southeastern Norway during the Holocene. Combined analysis of pollen and sedimentary ancient DNA (sedaDNA) metabarcoding of the sedimentary sequence of the lake describes the vegetation dynamics at different scales, and establishes a timeline for pastoral farming activities. We integrate this reconstruction with geochemical analysis of the sediments, climate data, archaeological evidence of local human settlement and regional human population dynamics. Our data covering the last 10,000 years reveals consistent vegetation signals from pollen and sedaDNA indicating periods of deforestation connected to cultivation, matching the archaeological evidence. Multivariate analysis integrating the environmental data from geochemical and archaeological reconstructions with the vegetation composition indicates that the vegetation dynamics at Lake Ljøgottjern were primarily related to natural processes from the base of the core (in ca. 8000 BCE, Mesolithic) up to the Early Iron Age (ca. 500 BCE–550 CE), when agricultural activities in the region intensified. The pollen signal reflects the establishment of a Bronze Age (ca. 1800–500 BCE) farm in the area, while subsequent intensification of pollen concentrations of cultivated plants combined with the first sedaDNA signals of cultivation and pastoralism are consistent with evidence of the establishment of farming closer to the lake at around 300 BCE. These signals also correspond to the intensification of agriculture in southeastern Norway in the first centuries of the Early Iron Age. Applying an interdisciplinary approach allows us to reconstruct anthropogenic and environmental dynamics, and untangle effects of human land-use and environmental changes on vegetation dynamics in southeastern Norway during the Holocene.