Sedimentary ancient DNA reveals local vegetation changes driven by glacial activity and climate
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionQuaternary. 2023, 6, 7. https://doi.org/10.3390/quat6010007
Disentangling the effects of glaciers and climate on vegetation is complicated by the confounding role that climate plays in both systems. We reconstructed changes in vegetation occurring over the Holocene at Jøkelvatnet, a lake located directly downstream from the Langfjordjøkel glacier in northern Norway. We used a sedimentary ancient DNA (sedaDNA) metabarcoding dataset of 38 samples from a lake sediment core spanning 10,400 years using primers targeting the P6 loop of the trnL (UAA) intron. A total of 193 plant taxa were identified revealing a pattern of continually increasing richness over the time period. Vegetation surveys conducted around Jøkelvatnet show a high concordance with the taxa identified through sedaDNA metabarcoding. We identified four distinct vegetation assemblage zones with transitions at ca. 9.7, 8.4 and 4.3 ka with the first and last mirroring climatic shifts recorded by the Langfjordjøkel glacier. Soil disturbance trait values of the vegetation increased with glacial activity, suggesting that the glacier had a direct impact on plants growing in the catchment. Temperature optimum and moisture trait values correlated with both glacial activity and reconstructed climatic variables showing direct and indirect effects of climate change on the vegetation. In contrast to other catchments without an active glacier, the vegetation at Jøkelvatnet has displayed an increased sensitivity to climate change throughout the Middle and Late Holocene. Beyond the direct impact of climate change on arctic and alpine vegetation, our results suggest the ongoing disappearance of glaciers will have an additional effect on plant communities.