Multiproxy study of anthropogenic and climatic changes
in the last two millennia from a small mire in central Poland
Mariusz Lamentowicz Æ Æ Zofia Balwierz Æ Æ Jacek Forysiak Æ Æ
Mateusz Pło ´ciennik Æ Æ Piotr Kittel Æ Æ Marek Kloss Æ Æ
Juliusz Twardy Æ Æ Sławomir_Zurek Æ Æ Jacek Pawlyta
Published online: 19 May 2009
? Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009
peatland in central Poland analyzed quantitatively
with four biotic proxies (plant macrofossils, pollen,
testate amoebae and chironomids) to reconstruct the
past environmental change. Palaeoecological data
were supported by historical and archaeological
records. We focused on autogenic vegetation change
and human impact in relation to climatic effects. The
aims of our study were (a) to describe the
The _Zabieniec kettle hole is the first
development history of the mire during the last
2,000 years, (b) to date and reconstruct the anthro-
pogenic land-use changes and (c) to discuss a
possible climatic signal in the peat archive. The
combination of proxies revealed dramatic shifts that
took place in the peatland since the Roman Period.
_Zabieniec was a very wet telmatic habitat until ca.
AD 600. Then, the water table declined, and the site
transformed into a Sphagnum-dominated mire. This
dry shift took place mainly during the Early Medieval
Period. Human impact was gradually increasing, and
it was particularly emphasized by deforestation since
AD 1250 (beginning of the Late Medieval Period).
Consequently, surface run-off and aeolian transport
Guest editors: K. Buczko ´, J. Korponai, J. Padisa ´k
& S. W. Starratt
Palaeolimnological Proxies as Tools of Environmental
Reconstruction in Fresh Water
M. Lamentowicz (&)
Department of Biogeography and Palaeoecology,
Faculty of Geosciences, Adam Mickiewicz University,
Dzie ˛gielowa 27, 61-680 Poznan, Poland
Ecosystem Boundaries Research Unit, Wetlands Research
Group Station 2, Swiss Federal Institute for Forest Snow
and Landscape Research (WSL), 1015 Lausanne,
Laboratoire des Syste `mes Ecologiques Station 2, Ecole
Polytechnique Fe ´de ´rale de Lausanne (EPFL), 1015
Z. Balwierz ? J. Forysiak ? P. Kittel ? J. Twardy
University of Ło ´dz ´, Faculty of Geographical Sciences,
Narutowicza 88, 90-139 Lodz, Poland
M. Pło ´ciennik
University of Ło ´dz ´, Faculty of Biology and Environment
Protection, Banacha 12/16, 90-237 Lodz, Poland
Centre for Ecological Research, Polish Academy of
Sciences, Dziekano ´w Les ´ny, 05-092 Łomianki, Poland
Department of Quaternary Studies and Nature
Conservation, University of Humanistic and Nature
Science of Kielce, Institute of Geography, S´wie ˛tokrzyska
15, 25-406 Kielce, Poland
Department of Radioisotopes, Silesian University
of Technology, Krzywoustego 2, 44-100 Gliwice, Poland
Hydrobiologia (2009) 631:213–230
from the exposed soils caused the eutrophication of
the mire. Furthermore, chironomids and testate
amoebae reveal the beginning of a wet shift ca. AD
1350. Openness considerably increased in the Late
Medieval and the Modern Periods. The highest water
table during the last 1,000 years was recorded
between AD 1500 and 1800. This wet event is
connected with deforestation, but it could be also
associated with the Little Ice Age. Our study shows
plant succession in the_Zabieniec peatland, which can
be explained with the recent landscape transforma-
tion. However, such changes are also possibly linked
with the major climatic episodes during the last two
millennia, such as the Medieval Warm Period and the
Little Ice Age.
amoebae ? Pollen ? Macrofossils ? Human impact ?
Climate ? Environmental archaeology
Central Poland ? Kettle hole ? Testate
Peatlands are very sensitive to climate change and
human impact (Blackford, 1993; Charman, 2002;
Rydin & Jeglum, 2006). They record the hydrological
and trophic variations within the peatland ecosystem
as well as changes in the catchment area (Bragg,
2002). Many records from peat archives have proven
to be useful for reconstructing the climatic changes
(Schoning et al., 2005; Booth et al., 2006; Oksanen &
Valiranta, 2006; Chambers et al., 2007; Charman &
Blundell, 2007). However, other studies have con-
centrated mainly on the signal of human impact
(Warner et al., 1989; Chambers & Charman, 2004;
Lamentowicz et al., 2007; Amesbury et al., 2008).
Wetland ecosystems function under various kinds
of anthropogenic stress. Their present state is a result
of a long history of changes. Disturbance was
gradually increasing along with economic develop-
ment in central Poland during the last 2,000 years.
This period was also very important because of the
phases of considerable climatic changes such as the
Medieval Warm Period and Little Ice Age. Recovery
of a disturbed peatland ecosystem is often not
possible after it has passed a critical threshold.
Therefore, it is important to assess the present
condition and naturalness of peatlands. Moreover,
the importance of human influence and climate
should be estimated to understand the state of a mire
ecosystem and the methods available for active
nature conservation (Willis et al., 2007).
One of the major aims of late Quaternary palae-
oecology is to answer the question: what is the
proportion of the climatic to anthropogenic signal
revealed in proxies? Late Holocene deposits are
particularly challenging for palaeoclimatic inferences
(Yeloff et al., 2007; van der Linden et al., 2008).
Human activity not only transformed the forest
vegetation in many parts of the world but also
triggered indirect physical and chemical changes in
peatlands. Since the Early Medieval period, the
vegetation of European forests was considerably
1996; Williams, 2000; Ralska-Jasiewiczowa et al.,
2004). Deforestations that progressed since the
Medieval Age caused increased run-off and abrupt
hydrological fluctuations. Furthermore, most of the
European peatlands were drained (Joosten & Clarke,
2002), which disturbed or eliminated the climatic
signal from the peat archive. Consequently, multi-
disciplinary studies made at many sites are necessary
to reconstruct spatially past environmental changes.
Recently, most palaeoenvironmental
studies have focused on ombrotrophic mires (Yeloff
& Mauquoy, 2006; Hughes et al., 2007; Sillasoo
et al., 2007; Blundell et al., 2008), and a minority has
been carried out in fens and kettle-hole mires
(Lagerback & Robertsson, 1988; Warner, 1993; Yu,
2006; Lamentowicz et al., 2008b), which can also
provide interesting palaeoenvironmental data.
A typical feature of a kettle-hole peatland is the
presence of a telmatic fen–bog transition in the
stratigraphic sequence. The autogenic terrestrializa-
tion makes the reconstruction of a palaeoclimatic
signal very difficult, although it is not impossible to
detect it in subsequent stages of growth._Zabieniec in
Central Poland is an example of a peatland where
Sphagnum appeared and dominated in the following
successive hydroseral stages. This may result from a
natural trajectory to acidification (Hughes & Barber,
2004) or even land-use change in the surroundings
(Lamentowicz et al., 2007). Multiproxy palaeoenvi-
ronmental studies from peatlands with relation to
historical and archaeological sources are not common
in this part of Europe. They are particularly rare in
the central part of our country, located in periglacial
214Hydrobiologia (2009) 631:213–230
conditions during the last Ice Age. This is because
most wetlands are concentrated within the former
range of the last Vistulian (=Weichselian) Glaciation
in the northern half of Poland, where a majority of
studies were carried out.
The_Zabieniec kettle hole is the first peatland in
Poland and this part of Europe analyzed with four
and testate amoebae), which we compare with archae-
analyses of diatoms are currently being prepared for
the last 2,000 years to track the increasing human
disturbance that should have been recorded in the
peatland. It was assumed that the most important
hydrological and trophic change in the studied mire
was initiated along with the beginning of the defores-
tation in the mire catchment in the Medieval Period.
For this reason, the aims of our study were (a) to
last 2,000 years, (b) to date and reconstruct the
anthropogenic land-use change and (c) to discuss a
possible climatic signal in the analyzed peat archive.
The _Zabieniec mire is situated in Central Poland,
25 km east of Ło ´dz ´, in an area of morainic upland
(Fig. 1). The mire is located in a closed oval basin,
which is 1.5-km long, in a watershed between the
rivers Mro_ zyca (to the west) and Mroga (to the east).
This basin was formed during the ice melting of the
Warta Glacier as a melt-out depression with a highly
varied bottom configuration._Zabieniec is situated in
the central part of this glacial depression. The mire
area is ca. 2.5 ha. Peat and lake sediments were
deposited within this depression probably from the
end of the Warta (=Saalian) Glaciation until the upper
Plenivistulian (=late Weichselian). Biogenic deposits
of the Late Vistulian and Holocene were formed only
in the deepest part of the depression, i.e. in the
_Zabieniec mire basin.
Fig. 1 Setting of the study site at the background of A Europe, B Poland, C central Poland and D map showing archaeological sites
around the peatland
Hydrobiologia (2009) 631:213–230215
Climate in this region of Poland is rather conti-
nental and drier than in the northern part of the
country, which is more influenced by the wet air
masses from the Baltic and northern Atlantic.
According to the climatic typology of Poland, this
area has a transitional climate (Wos ´, 1999).
The average annual temperature in 1931–1989 was
7.7?C, while the mean of the warmest month (July)
was 18?C and that of the coldest month (January) was
-3.3?C. However, these annual and monthly tem-
peratures are highly variable, which is probably
caused by the influence of oceanic and continental
climate. Average annual precipitation in 1951–1989
was 590 mm, but in this case also, a high variability
(ca. 30%) was observed (Kłysik, 2001).
One core (Z-2) was sampled from the central part of
the mire (Fig. 2). In addition, a 60-cm peat monolith
was extracted for the study of the last millennium. The
main core was taken with a piston corer. Furthermore,
a geological survey of the mire was done with a
Russian sampler (diameter—50 mm). Samples for
phosphorus analyses were collected by geological
drilling at depths of ca. 90–100 cm. Distance between
drillings was 50–100 m. One hundred samples were
collected for the analysis. Phosphorus analysis was
realized according to the methodology described by
Eidt (1973) and Arrhennius (1950).
An age-depth model for the peat profile was con-
structed by radiocarbon dating of the organic material
(Table 1). Samples prefixed with ‘Poz’ in the labora-
tory code were dated with accelerator mass spectrom-
etry (AMS), whereas all the other samples were dated
with radiometric methods. All the AMS dates were
obtained on the basis of several Sphagnum stems
carefully selected for radiocarbon dating, avoiding
any rootlets and other contamination (Table 1). All
the other dates were obtained on the basis of bulk
Fig. 2 Geological profile (WE) of the _Zabieniec peatland.
Warta Glaciation (=Saalian): 1—glacial till, 2—fluvioglacial
sand and gravel, and 3—mineral silt; Eem Interglacial: 4—
organic silt; Vistulian (=Weichselian): 5—mineral-organic silt
with fine sand, 6—organic-mineral silt, 7—sand, 8—mineral
and organic silt, 9—gyttja with silt, 10—detritus-clay gyttja;
Holocene: 11—fine detritus gyttja, 12—coarse detritus gyttja,
13—brown-moss peat, 14—sedge-moss peat, 15—Sphagnum
peat, 16—sedge-moss peat, 17—Sphagnum cuspidatum peat,
18—sedge-moss peat and brown moss peat, 19—organic-
mineral silt with detritus, 20—silt, 21—deposits disturbed by
216Hydrobiologia (2009) 631:213–230
organic matter of peat. Both AMS and radiometric
methods used the standard alkali–acid–alkali pre-
treatment procedure. Sample pre-treatment, graphite
target preparation and
ments for ‘Poz’ samples were done in the AMS
facility of the Poznan ´ Radiocarbon Laboratory.
Radiometric dating for ‘Lod’ prefixed samples were
done in the Ło ´dz ´ Radiocarbon Laboratory.
For the analysis of testate amoebae, 4-cm3samples
were taken in 2.5-cm intervals for the upper 60 cm
and in 5-cm intervals for the section of 60–125 cm.
Samples were prepared according to the sieving and
back-sieving procedure described by Hendon and
Charman (1997). Testate amoebae were identified
and counted to a total of 150 individuals per sample,
at a magnification of 200–4009. Their identification
was based on the available literature (Grospietsch,
1958; Ogden & Hedley, 1980; Charman et al., 2000;
Clarke, 2003; Mitchell, 2003).
For pollen analysis, 2-cm3samples were taken in
5-cm intervals and treated with 10% KOH and then
acetolyzed for 3 min (Berglund & Ralska-Jasiewicz-
owa, 1986; Faegri & Iversen, 1989). Minerogenic
matter was removed with hydrofluoric acid. In
general, a minimum of 500 pollen grains of trees
and shrubs (arboreal pollen = AP) was counted in
each sample, but in samples where their frequency
14C concentration measure-
was very low, all the pollen grains from the two slides
22 9 22 mm2were identified. The sum of arboreal
and non-arboreal pollen was the basis of percentage
calculation (AP ? NAP = 100%).
The material for plant macrofossil analysis was
sample volume was 20 cm3. The material was rinsed
with water onto sieves with mesh sizes of 0.25 and
0.5 mm. The residue was identified under a stereo-
slide from each sample was examined under a micro-
scope at200–4009 todeterminethe peat composition.
Macrofossils were identified with the use of available
guides (e.g. Katz et al., 1965, 1977; Berggren, 1968;
Tobolski, 2000; Mauquoy & van Geel, 2007).
Chironomid fossil analysis was performed accord-
ing to the methods described by Brooks et al. (2007)
using a 63-lm mesh size sieve. In samples where a
small number of head capsules were present, kero-
sene floatation on a bigger volume of sediment (up to
80 cm3) was used for the extraction of chironomid
subfossils (Rolland & Larocque, 2007). Head cap-
sules were identified by using mainly the taxonomic
keys by Wiederholm (1983), Klink & Moller Pillot
(2003) and Brooks et al. (2007). Water quality
classification based on the proportions of tolerant
and intolerant taxa follows Wilson and Ruse (2005).
Table 1 Results of
Sample name Depth (cm)
14C age (BP)Calibrated age (95.40% probability)
Poz-1901945 645 ± 50 1276 AD (95.4%) 1405 AD
Poz-17117601085 ± 30894 AD (95.4%) 1016 AD
Poz-17116120 1475 ± 35 535 AD (95.4%) 652 AD
Lod-1391305 3010 ± 50 1410 BC (95.4%) 1114 BC
Lod-1390375 3690 ± 50 2271 BC (0.8%) 2259 BC
2206 BC (94.6%) 1937 BC
Poz-23658436 4580 ± 353499 BC (18.2%) 3436 BC
3379 BC (42.8%) 3318 BC
3292 BC (0.2%) 3290 BC
3274 BC (0.5%) 3268 BC
3236 BC (33.8%) 3108 BC
Poz-23638531 6270 ± 405325 BC (86.4%) 5204 BC
5168 BC (9.0%) 5076 BC
Poz-23639 8269130 ± 50 8530 BC (1.2%) 8519 BC
8474 BC (94.2%) 8255 BC
Poz-23640 1,03611,860 ± 60 11921 BC (95.4%) 11609 BC
Poz-236591,290 14,120 ± 70 15286 BC (95.4%) 14450 BC
Hydrobiologia (2009) 631:213–230 217
Numerical analyses and graphical presentation
Conventional radiocarbon dates were calibrated by
using OxCal 4.05 (Bronk Ramsey, 2001) and the
IntCal04 calibration curve (Reimer et al., 2004).
Five-year smoothing was chosen for the calibration.
Probability distributions for 10 calibrated dates were
used for the estimation of an age-depth model. In
addition, the calendar year 2006 was attributed to the
top of the core. The age-depth model was built by
using the P_Sequence deposition model procedure of
OxCal 4.05 (Bronk Ramsey, 2008). Parameter k of
the P_Sequence function was set to 0.1, and the
interpolation parameter was set to 2. The resulting
expected values modelled for each dated depth were
then interpolated by the Akima spline algorithm
(Akima, 1970) to give the date for each centimetre of
depth (Fig. 3). In addition, normalized probability
distributions for each calibrated radiocarbon date
used for age-depth modelling are also presented in
Fig. 3. The grey shaded area in Fig. 3 represents the
68% probability range of the model.
For the summary diagram, general zones were
delimited mainly on the basis of archaeological
-16000-14000 -12000 -10000
Modelled calendar year (BC/AD)
-8000 -6000-4000-2000 1BC/1AD2000
1200400600 80010001200140016001800 2000
Modelled calendar year (AD)
Fig. 3 Age-depth model,
(A) entire profile, (B) last
218Hydrobiologia (2009) 631:213–230
periods (Kaczanowski & Kozłowski, 1998), but an
additional zone Z6 was created because of a signif-
icant, abrupt change in all proxies.
In order to reconstruct quantitatively the water
table and pH in the mire, we applied a training set
consisting of 123 surface samples taken from natural
Sphagnum mires in Pomerania (Lamentowicz &
Mitchell, 2005; Lamentowicz et al., 2008b), western
Poland (Lamentowicz et al., 2008a) as well as in
_Zabieniec in 2005. In the publications mentioned
above, the performance of four models was tested:
partial least squares (PLS), weighted averaging
(WA), tolerance down-weighted weighted averaging
(WAtol) and weighted averaging partial least squares
(WA-PLS), by using the program C2 (Juggins, 2003).
The root mean square error of prediction (RMSEP)
was calculated by using the jackknifing cross-valida-
tion procedure (Crowley, 1992). For depth to the
water table (DWT) (range of modern samples
min = -3 cm; max = 70 cm, SD = 14 cm), the
model with the lowest RMSEP was WAtol, with a
maximum prediction bias of 8.9 cm and a jacknived
root mean square error of prediction (RMSEP(jack))
of 4.3 cm. For pH, the model with the lowest RMSEP
was WA-PLS (range of modern samples min = 3.14;
max = 7.27, SD = 1.11), the maximum bias of the
prediction was 0.5 pH units and the RMSEP(jack)
was 0.41 pH units (Lamentowicz et al., 2008b;
Lamentowicz & Mitchell, 2005). Reconstruction of
the general trophic status of the peatland was based
on the quantitative pH reconstruction as well as
qualitative attributes of testate amoebae and plant
Chronology and peat accumulation rates
The age-depth model presented in Fig. 3 shows that
accumulation rate throughout the history of the peat
bog was approximately constant. The average accu-
mulation rate calculated by linear approximation of
the age-depth model curve is about 0.74 mm/year.
However, some small variations of accumulation rate
can be observed. Small decreases in the accumulation
rate during 12000–7000 BC and 5000–2000 BC as
well as a small increase during 8000–5000 BC are
Proxies analyzed in this study allowed reconstructing
the history of the peatland and its surroundings,
spanning the last two millennia. Initially, we devel-
oped a zonation for each proxy. However, because
zones for the particular proxies did not remain in
agreement, we presented the development history in
the context of human impact, which is a useful
criterion from the point of view of the aim of this
study. Low agreement between zonations might be
caused by different resolution of sampling, especially
in the case of pollen analysis.
Detailed diagrams of each proxy are presented in
separate figures for plant macrofossils (Fig. 4), pollen
(Fig. 5), chironomids (Fig. 6) and testate amoebae
A summary diagram with a short interpretation is
presented in Fig. 8. The development history of the
_Zabieniec mire was divided into six stages (Z1–Z6)
according to the archaeological periods.
History of the_Zabieniec peatland
Roman Period, ca. 0 BC–AD 375 (Z1)
(Figs. 4, 5, 6, 7)
During this period, the _Zabieniec peatland was a
mesotrophic–telmatic habitat with shallow water, as
indicated by brown mosses, Scheuchzeria palustris,
Carex spp., and remains of Pediastrum and Botryo-
coccus (Fig. 4–5). Between AD 100 and AD 200,
Sphagnum spp. of the section Sphagnum became
more abundant, whereas Scheuchzeria palustris and
Cyperaceae declined, which suggests a temporal
acidification (van Breemen, 1995; Tallis, 1983). At
about AD 400, the peatland became mesotrophic
again, which was probably connected with a rise in
the water table. All proxies show relatively stable
absent. Human impact was insignificant, but infre-
quent pollen of Rumex acetosa, Plantago lanceolata
and cereals (including Secale) shows human presence
(Behre, 1981) in more distant areas.
Chironomid analysis indicates that_Zabieniec in
the Roman Period was a mire with a shallow water
body overgrown with macrophytes. The dominant
species was Paratendipes nudisquama. Paratendipes
larvae often occur in small standing water bodies like
Hydrobiologia (2009) 631:213–230 219
ponds and bogs (Wiederholm, 1983). Chironomid
communities were relatively rich in taxa, with high
dominance of macrophyte-related taxa characteristic
of small acid water bodies with dense vegetation such
as Monopelopia tenuicalcar and Lauterborniella
agrayloides (ecological preferences after Klink &
Moller Pillot (2003) and Vallenduuk & Moller Pillot
Migration period, ca. AD 375–568 (Z2)
(Figs. 4, 5, 6, 7)
This stage was characterized by indicators of wet and
mesotrophic habitats. Scheuchzeria palustris and
Carex spp. dominated among vascular plants. Pedia-
strum and Botryococcus increased, representing open
water surface. There was no decline in AP. During this
20 40 60
Sphagnum sec. Sphagnum
Sphagnum fallaxSphagnum cuspidatumSphagnum obtusum Sphagnum sec. Cuspidata
Sphagnum sec. Acutifolia
Drepanocladus aduncusDrepanocladus sp.
Unidentified Organic Matter
+ + +
Analyst: M. Kloss
% plant macrofossils diagram
Fig. 4 Percentage plant macrofossil diagram. Zonation based on archaeological periods
Poaceae Pinus Betula
Herbaceous plants of wet habitats
Herbaceous plants of dry habitatsHerbaceous plants of fresh and moist habitats
Anthropogenic indicators without cereals
100 200 300 400
VariousLocal aquatic and mire plants Anth. Ind.Trees and shrubs
% pollen diagram
Analyst: Zofia Balwierz
Fig. 5 Percentage pollen diagram. Zonation based on archaeological periods
220Hydrobiologia (2009) 631:213–230
stage (AD 500), the first testate amoebae appeared,
mainly oligotrophic taxa (Lamentowicz & Mitchell,
2005; Lamentowicz et al., 2008b) (Amphitrema
wrightianum, Archerella (Amphitrema) flavum) and
taxa typical for mesotrophic–telmatic conditions (La-
mentowicz & Mitchell, 2005; Lamentowicz et al.,
Paratanytarsus penicillatus type
Tanytarsus pallidicornis-type 1
Orthocladius trigonolabis type
Corynoneura scutellata type
Tanytarsus pallidicornis-type 2
020 40 60
Paratendipes nudisquama type
Metriocnemus fuscipes type
Corynoneura cf antennalis type
020 40 60 80
020 40 60 80
0 100 200300
0100200 300 400
% chironomids diagram
Analysis: Mateusz Płóciennik
Fig. 6 Percentage chironomid diagram. Zonation based on archaeological periods
20 40 60
Archerella (Amphitrema) flavum
Arcella artocrea Arcella catinus
Centropyxis cf. sphagnicola type
Centropyxis platystomaCorythion dubium
Cyclopyxis eurystomaCyclopyxis kahliiDifflugia baccilifera
Euglypha rotunda Euglypha tuberculata Euglypha sp.
Nebela bohemicaNebela griseola
Phryganella paradoxaPlagiopyxis declivis
DWT (cm) (Depth to the Water Table)
46 8 10
% testate amoebae diagram
Analyst: Mariusz Lamentowicz
Fig. 7 Percentage testate amoebae diagram. Zonation based on archaeological periods
Hydrobiologia (2009) 631:213–230221
2008b) (such as Centropyxis aculeata and C. disco-
ides). Testate amoebae appeared abruptly, which
suggests their rapid establishment. Their presence
was connected with an increasing abundance of
Sphagnum. The resolution of plant macrofossil anal-
ysis does not make it possible to determine the exact
date of Sphagnum expansion, but remains of testate
amoebae reveal that it was not a gradual process.
The composition of chironomid assemblages
changed and diversity decreased, which indicates a
shift in the ecosystem. The terrestrial Smittia appeared
(Brooks et al., 2007), the domination of Paratendipes
nudisquama decreased, while shares of some acido-
philic taxa—Monopelopia tenuicalcar, Limnophyes—
briefly increased. Furthermore, Corynoneura cf. an-
tennalis increased; this species is usually associated
with streams but frequent also in acidic waters (Klink
& Moller Pillot, 2003). Larvae in this morphotype
in _Zabieniec seem to be associated with acidic
Fig. 8 Comparison of plant macrofossils data with quantita-
tive reconstructions based on testate amoebae. Macrofossils
show local habitat changes. Environmental variables from
testate amoebae are based on regional transfer function. Other
proxies are summarized in the Results and Discussion sections.
First information about location of Bielanki village is also
mentioned and the zonation is based on Polish archaeological
222Hydrobiologia (2009) 631:213–230
Early Medieval Period, ca. AD 568–1250 (Z3)
(Figs. 4, 5, 6, 7)
From ca. AD 600, oligotrophic Sphagnum peatland
developed. This is roughly concurrent with the end
of the Migration Period. However, during the entire
Early Medieval Period, anthropogenic pollen indi-
cators were low, but gradually increasing. There
were no direct changes in the peatland surround-
ings, but distant transport of some pollen taxa
(Rumex acetosa, Plantago lanceolata and cereals)
represents the Early Medieval economy. Between
AD 700 and AD 850, Carpinus forest regenerated.
Carpinus shows a constant decline since AD 850,
along with an increase in pollen indicators of
human activity. Furthermore, the proportion of
NAP gradually increased, representing landscape
openness. The testate amoebae assemblage was
composed mainly of species characteristic for the
moist Sphagnum lawn (Lamentowicz & Mitchell,
2005; Lamentowicz et al., 2008b), e.g. Amphitrema
flavum and Hyalosphenia papilio; however, an
important moisture indicator Amphitrema wrightia-
num (Charman et al.,
Mitchell, 2005; Lamentowicz et al., 2008b) shows
wetter episodes during ca. AD 690, ca. AD 1000
and ca. AD 1150. Reconstructed values of depth to
the water table fluctuate between 0 and 20 cm.
Average pH was around 4.5. These stable hydro-
logical conditions in the peatland were maintained
until ca. AD 1350.
From ca. AD 750 to ca. AD 1250, only four
chironomid taxa were present. The abundance of
larve was low from ca. AD 750 to ca. AD 1200,
which may indicate water table decrease and
Sphagnum expansion. A rapid decline and disap-
pearance of nearly all shallow-water taxa (including
Paratendipes nudisquama) up to AD 750 and their
replacement by semiterrestrial ones tolerant to low
Limnophyes (Klink & Moller Pillot, 2003; Brooks
et al., 2007), may indicate semiterrestrial conditions
and coincide with those having a pH below 5.0 as
inferred by testate amoebae (Fig. 8). Only the
percentage of Corynoneura cf. antennalis increased.
This species is not a terrestrial one (Klink &
Moller Pillot, 2003) which suggests the presence of
at least temporally open water table on the mire
Late Medieval Period, AD 1250–1500 (Z4)
(Figs. 4, 5, 6, 7)
Historically, year ca. AD 1250 marks the end of the
Early Medieval Period, but the most important
transition in the peatland record is dated to ca. AD
1350. Up to this date, conditions were relatively
stable, with rapid peat accumulation by Sphagnum.
The beginning of the Late Medieval Period is marked
by ca. AD 1250, and the probable deforestation in the
immediate vicinity of the_Zabieniec mire is marked
by ca. AD 1350, which might have triggered a change
in the_Zabieniec peatland vegetation and peat com-
position. The closeness of the deforestation can be
estimated indirectly by testate amoebae and chiron-
omids, as the pollen record possesses a lower
sampling resolution. Peat-forming vegetation became
dominated by Cyperaceae, indicating habitat eutro-
phication (Fig. 8). The curve of depth to the water
table shows a decrease in the water table, with the
lowest value ca. AD 1450, but pH increased to
unusual value ([9). This very high pH value is hard
to explain; it may be caused by the co-occurrence of
minerotrophic indicators in fossil testate amoebae
data. However, it reveals the instability of the
peatland ecosystem, caused by change in the sur-
roundings. Pollen data show an increase in human
impact and NAP percentage, and a decline in pollen
of all trees. Furthermore, an increase of anthropo-
genic indicators is apparent, e.g. of cereals, Rumex
acetosa and Plantago lanceolata. Remains of Bot-
ryococcus represent increased wetness. However, this
peak is visible in only one sample. This wet shift is
also reflected in the pH curve, representing eutrophi-
cation. Testate amoebae show a dramatic change in
the community composition. Centropyxis aerophila
reached abundances over 90% from ca. AD 1350
when the peat consisted of mineral matter, whereas
before ca. AD 1350, nearly no mineral particles were
recorded in the peat. Most testate amoebae occurring
during this phase represent the genera Centropyxis,
Cyclopyxis and Difflugia. At about AD 1400, the
highest value of pH was recorded. The presence of
Phryganella acropodia indicates short dry shifts
(Mitchell et al. 2001).
Non-biting midges also revealed a sudden shift in
the mire in the Late Medieval Period, associated with
human influence on the bog. Human impact increased
Hydrobiologia (2009) 631:213–230 223
communities, with the maximum ca. AD 1510. Most
of the 31 taxa from the Late Medieval Period were
represented also in the Roman Period and during the
Migration Period. The factors that seemed to have
determined the composition of assemblages in this
water level was higher than that in the Early Medieval
Period, which was crucial for the existence of rich
assemblages of littoral species and decreased the
dominance of terrestrial ones. While semiterrestrial
taxa typical for acidified habitats (e.g. Pseudorthocla-
dius curtistylus) and Corynoneura cf. antennalis were
less abundant, others considered as eurytopic, occur-
ring in neutral waters (Klink & Moller Pillot, 2003;
Brooks et al., 2007) (Psectrocladius sordidellus-type,
Dicrotendipes, Polypedilum nubeculosum-type) were
more abundant. Lower percentage of intolerant taxa
(following the classification in Wilson & Ruse, 2005)
than that in the Roman Period indicates higher trophy
coinciding with higher pH inferred from testate
Modern period, ca. AD 1500–1800 (Z5)
(Figs. 4, 5, 6, 7)
During this phase, the decline in NAP and the
increase in anthropogenic indicators continued. Local
vegetation remained dominated by Cyperaceae, with
an even lower percentage of Sphagnum. Cereals
reached over 30% of the total pollen during ca. AD
1750, and such high percentages should be inter-
preted as indicating the cultivation in the direct
surroundings of the peatland. The landscape became
more and more open, as all tree taxa declined in
abundance through the interval. Macrofossils and
pollen of wetland plants, including Botryococcus,
indicate shallow water conditions. Also, testate
amoebae reveal a high water table and high pH.
Centropyxis aerophila was accompanied by other
species present at lower abundance, e.g. Centropyxis
cf. sphagnicola type, C. platystoma, Cyclopyxis ar-
celloides and Phryganella acropodia.
Abundant chironomid assemblages existed to AD
1670, whereas later only 10 mainly acidophilic and
terrestrial ones remained. The percentage of Pseud-
orthocladius curtistylus sharply increased during ca.
AD 1700, indicating the return of the mire habitat to
conditions preceding human influence on the mire in
the Late Medieval Period.
Modern period, ca. AD 1800–2006 (Z6)
(Figs. 4, 5, 6, 7)
The last phase of _Zabieniec mire development is
characterized by the reappearance of Sphagnum,
afforestation and an abrupt increase in Alnus. Human
indicators and cereals slightly decreased. From ca.
AD 1800, a second complete transformation of the
habitat took place. Among testate amoebae, Phryga-
nella acropodia, which prefers dry conditions,
reached a very high percentage ([70%). This reflects
a decrease in the water table. Also, Nebela militaris, a
good dry indicator according to the existing transfer
function of Lamentowicz et al. (2008c), confirmed
this dry shift. Typha latifolia appeared during ca. AD
1900 in the peatland margins and has persisted there
up to the present days.
Chironomids reveal a similar successional shift
from the aquatic to terrestrial environment. Disap-
pearance of nearly all littoral taxa and the dominance
of Pseudorthocladius curtistylus, later also the ter-
restrial taxa Pseudosmittia trilobata-type and Limn-
ophyes (Klink & Moller Pillot, 2003), may indicate a
low water level and terrestrial character of the bog.
Polypedilum and Chironomus, which occur in sam-
ples from ca. AD 1890–2006, may indicate at least
temporary water pools on the mire in the last century
of the_Zabieniec history, as these taxa are eurytopic
and not terrestrial (Brooks et al., 2007). The number
of head capsules was at first higher than those in the
previous sections, but later it declined. Diversity of
the assemblages decreased to ca. AD 1890 as well,
and then slightly increased.
In the immediate vicinity of the_Zabieniec mire, only
one archaeological site was discovered during an
archaeological surface survey (Fig. 1D). It is the site
Syberia Dolna no. 1, located ca. 350 m north of the
mire, on the surface of a western slope of a dry
valley. Results of an archaeological study in 2007 did
not confirm the occurrence of any relics at this site. In
the area of 150 km2, in the surroundings of the mire,
84 archaeological sites (with 119 archaeological
relics) have been registered. Half of them date to
the Late Medieval Period and Modern Period, and
only five to the Early Medieval Period (not earlier
than the eleventh century). In the group of 13
224Hydrobiologia (2009) 631:213–230
prehistoric sites, five date to the Mesolithic, two to
the Mesolithic or the Neolithic, 13 to the Bronze Age,
seven to the Late Bronze Age/Early Iron Age, one to
the Early Iron Age (Hallstatt Period), one to the
Hallstatt Period/La Tene Period and 10 to the Roman
period. Most of these were documented by few
archaeological relics. The sites are located mainly in
or near valleys of the rivers Mroga and Mro_ zyca.
Most of the sites are up to 5 km away from the mire
(AZP, unpublished data).
Bielanki village, we uncovered only few fragments of
Modern Period and probably to the Late Medieval. In
the same area, we recorded the highest quantity of
the surface layer (90–100-cm thick). Simultaneously,
in preliminary archaeological excavations, no evi-
dence of human activity was found. The oldest
historical sources were recorded in the close vicinity
of the_Zabieniec mire two villages, Kołacinek and
Bielanki. Both were noted in the Early Middle Ages—
Bielanki in 1394 (in Ksie ˛gi Łe ˛czyckie), and Kołacinek
in 1257 and 1334 as the KuyavianDuke’s possessions.
In the sixteenth century, the former village existed
within the borders of the Brzeziny parish as Bylanowo
and in 1576 as Bilianovo (noblemen’s possessions). In
records from the nineteenth century, we can find the
found among noblemen’s
(Zaja ˛czkowski & Zaja ˛czkowski, 1966).
The nineteenth century cartographic sources (i.e.
Gilly’s Map 1803 and the so-called Topographic Map
of the Polish Kingdom 1839) show continuous wood-
lands in the surroundings of_Zabieniec. In the late
nineteenth century (according to Gilly’s Map), we can
find open areas only in proximity to the rivers Mroga
and Mro_ zyca, near the village Wola Cyrusowa (north
of_Zabieniec), and probably in the vicinity of Bielanki.
The_Zabieniec village was present in AD 1825. The
Topographic Map of the Polish Kingdom presents the
increasing deforestation in the first half of the
nineteenth century, in the surroundings of Bielanki as
In the nineteenth century, in the area of the
Brzeziny district, most arable land was moderately
fertile, suitable for growing rye and potatoes. In this
region, the extensive woodlands were administered or
possessed by the state. In 1820–1853, the forest area
declined in this region by ca. 30%. In 1820, wood-
lands occupied 40% of the district area, and in 1853,
only 28% (Ohryzko-Włodarska, 1972).
Based on the results of former (AZP, unpublished
data) and our archaeological field research, we can
conclude that the human impact near the_Zabieniec
mire was insignificant almost until just prior to the
Modern Period. Only a few relics, which are uncov-
ered by archaeological research and dated to the Late
Medieval Period, have been discovered. Older settle-
ments occupied the areas close to the Mroga and
Mro_ zyca river valleys.
The multiproxy approach to the study of the_Zabie-
niec peat archive allowed us to look at many aspects
of the past change of the peatland and the surround-
ing landscape. This site may be regarded as an
important reference point for higher resolution stud-
ies. All proxies give a very clear and sharp signal of
abrupt changes in the peatland ecosystem and its
surroundings. Two main questions arose during the
investigation: (1) How and when did the anthropo-
genic land-use change affect the autogenic processes,
and (2) How did the climate modify human activities
and the natural signal provided by proxies?
Land-use change and autogenic processes
Our study shows that the direct human impact
appeared in the Late Medieval Period, although
settlements existed in the Bronze Age and the Iron
Age in the nearby river valleys of Mroga and
Mro_ zyca. Only one archaeological site was discov-
ered in the immediate neighbourhood of the mire.
Despite the late human influences, the peatland
ecosystem completely changed since ca. AD 1350
together with the transformation of the landscape.
The_Zabieniec mire is a classical example of plant
succession in a former lake, which has progressed
since the Late Glacial. In our study, we concentrated
on the last stages of the terrestrialization process.
During most of its history, this site was not directly
disturbed by human activity. Human impact began to
affect the peatland ecosystem quite recently. Defor-
estation and development of agriculture may lead to
various trophic states and various types of vegetation.
Hydrobiologia (2009) 631:213–230225
One very important study was realized on floating
bogs of southern Ontario by Warner et al. (1989).
These authors showed an influence of deforestations
on peatland ecosystems (water table fluctuations and
vegetation change). Magyari et al. (2001) also
interpreted the transition to higher mire water table
as at least partly induced by gradually intensifying
human activity in northeastern Hungary. The authors
state that the periodic supply of nutrients together
with human-induced water table increases may have
delayed the autogenic succession. Other example of
human impact to peatlands (vegetation change) was
provided by Rybnı ´c ˇek and Rybnı ´c ˇkova ´ (1974).
What is more important is that we can incorrectly
believe that present peatland systems are on their
natural path of development (Warner, 1996). The
_Zabieniec peatland (and possibly most other peat-
lands in central Poland) represents altered ecosys-
tems, disturbed in the past by, e.g. draining,
agriculture and exploitation. However, past defores-
tation has been an underestimated factor, because no
precise palaeoenvironmental data of the recent peat
deposits are available for most of the sites.
The habitat in_Zabieniec was very wet and telmatic
until ca. AD 600. Then, the water table decreased and
the site transformed into a Sphagnum-dominated mire.
This drying took place during the Early Medieval
Period and might be interpreted as a decrease in the
water table leading to oligotrophication.
The strongest evidence for the gradual increase in
Human impact on the region was post-AD 1350
Consequently, run-off and aeolian transport from
exposed soils caused eutrophication which can be
tracked through changes in pH. Geochemical results
as well as decrease of organic matter) obtained from
the same core (Boro ´wka et al., unpublished data)
confirm our assumptions of soil erosion. Furthermore,
responded to the change in AD 1350. Centropyxis
aerophila domination indicates minerotrophic condi-
tions.Theshell morphologyofthistaxon allowsliving
in mineral soil (Foissner, 1987, 2000); therefore, its
dominance can be an indicator of mineral deposition
on a peatland surface. The date of ca. AD 1350 may be
connected with the first mention about the Bielanki
village in AD 1394 when forest exploitation became
more intensive in the direct vicinity of the mire.
Openness increased considerably through the Late
Medieval and Modern Periods. During these periods,
intensive development of agriculture was observed in
central Poland, mainly in uplands (Twardy, 2008).
Other Polish studies of the recent peat cover (past
1–3 millennia) show how multidirectional peatland
development can result in the development of differ-
ent types of peatlands. One study from the Tuchola
Forest (Lamentowicz et al., 2007) revealed an
opposite (to the present study) response of peatland
ecosystem to deforestations. In that case, forest
cutting resulted in acidification and Sphagnum
expansion during the last 200 years. This kettle-hole
peatland is located in a sandy outwash plain covered
by pine forest, where run-off from the acid soils led to
pH decrease, which promoted Sphagnum establish-
ment. Human impact appeared much later in this
peatland than in the_Zabieniec mire. Unfortunately,
there is a shortage of high-resolution studies from this
part of Europe to compare with the results from
Climate—human or autogenic change?
Despite very pronounced human impact, it is probable
that the _Zabieniec peatland has also responded to
climatic change. Until AD 600, the peatland was very
wet, and then Sphagnum expanded (testate amoebae
also increase rapidly in abundance at this time). This
could have been a result of autogenic tendencies of the
peatland to oligotrophication (Zobel, 1988) or of a
decrease in the water table, caused by climatic change
(Hughes & Barber, 2003, 2004). The location of this
peatland in an area of continental climate influences
suggests that temperature might be the most important
parameter governing the peatland hydrology (Schon-
ing et al., 2005; Charman, 2007), and the increase in
temperature during the Medieval Warm Period may
have influenced the water table. At present, the
surface of the_Zabieniec mire is flooded in wet years.
Our proxies show that such flooding occurred also in
the past. A good example for comparison is the
previously mentioned kettle-hole peatland in Tuchola
(Lamentowicz et al., 2008b), where such flooding
took place in the past and is still observed today.
However, the pattern of changes in Tuchola is
different, as this mire acidified much earlier, ca.
5000 BP. In the case of kettle holes such as the ones in
_Zabieniec and Tuchola, acidification is not a synonym
226Hydrobiologia (2009) 631:213–230
of ombrotrophication and it may have depended on
soil leaching during the Holocene.
We suggest that during most of the history of
_Zabieniec, climate was a very important factor, but the
signal was more recognizable as terrestrialization
progressed. The dry shift during ca. AD 600 and
relatively stable hydrological conditions were proba-
bly related to climate. However, this was too early for
the Medieval Warm Period (which is usually dated to
AD 800–1300), although during this time also, many
other areas of the world experienced drought episodes
(Bradley et al., 2003). Nevertheless, it is possible that
in this part of Europe, the situation was different, and
the Medieval Warm Period started earlier. Having no
data from this part of Poland, we can compare our
results with those obtained from northern Poland,
from a Baltic bog in Sta ˛_ zki (Lamentowicz et al.,
2009). At this site, the water table remained high until
AD 1000–1100, and later, it decreased and became
very unstable. The last part of the Early Medieval Age
and the Late Medieval Age were very dry at Sta ˛_ zki,
and this multiproxy study shows that at the beginning
of the Little Ice Age, the record of climate change may
have been modified human impact.
In the case of_Zabieniec, intensified human impact
was synchronous with that of the Little Ice Age (LIA).
This causes difficulties in identifying the climate
signal. Pronounced human impact occurs during the
LIA, which is dated differently in various parts of the
world. The LIA was recorded in many environmental
archives in Europe (Mauquoy et al., 2002; Matthews,
2005; Weckstro ¨m et al., 2006; Blass et al., 2007; van
der Linden et al., 2008), and it is commonly dated to
AD 1550–1850 (Bradley & Jones, 1992). In Poland,
this important event is not well documented, but
records of it may be more common than we suppose.
A comparison of our wet shift dated to ca. 1350 AD
can also be made with other European data such as
those of Magny (2004) for central Europe, who dates a
final phase of lake level increase to AD 1394.
The major hydrological shift at_Zabieniec at AD
1350 corresponds to the Wolf minimum, suggesting
that the shift was in response to reduced solar activity.
The impact of the Maunder minimum (Shindell et al.,
2001) is well documented because all proxies show
that a very wet period occurred between AD 1500 and
AD 1800. It is possible that climate was the decisive
factor for human settlement in the vicinity of_Zabie-
niec that is located on the morainic plateau. Formerly,
settlements were only recorded in the river valleys.
Due to the increase in wetland areas, people may have
been forced to search for more suitable places for
The openness of the vegetation significantly
increased in the period AD 1800–2006, which is well
documented in the historical sources, but the water
table decreased in the peatland. This intriguing dry
shift may be interpreted as the end of the Little Ice
Age. Until the early twentieth century, no peatland
exploitation took place which indicates that any
changes in the peatland were due to climate variabil-
ity. This also confirms that not only did deforestation
influence the water table in the peatland, but also that
climate played a crucial role in the past. We excluded
autogenic change as the reason of water table decrease
because there are no Sphagnum hummocks in the mire
surface. At present, Sphagnum fallax dominates in the
moss layer. This species tolerates a very wide range of
trophic conditions, and even a high input of phospho-
rus may not be disturbing (Limpens et al., 2003).
from the Polish Ministry of Science and Higher Education, No.
2P04E02228, ‘Changes in the Environment of the Ło ´dz ´ Hills
(Wzniesienia Ło ´dzkie) during the Vistulian (Weichselian) and
Holocene in the light of interdisciplinary palaeoecological
research of the_Zabieniec mire’ (Principal Investigator: Jacek
Forysiak). Mariusz Lamentowicz’s activity was funded by the
above-mentioned grant, as well as, a second grant from the
Polish Ministry of Science and Higher Education, No.
2PO4G03228, ‘Climatic changes in Pomerania (northwestern
Poland) in the last millennium, based on the multiproxy high-
resolution studies’. We thank Milena Obremska for her help in
pollen diagram preparation and Sylwia Ufnalska for improving
the English language. We also thank the three anonymous
referees for their valuable comments.
The study was supported by a grant
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