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Holocene environment and climate in the NW White Carpathian: a multidisciplinary approach (including geochemistry, sedimentology and malacology) on Mituchovci tufa in Slovakia



Calcareous tufas are continental open-air carbonates that routinely host evidence of past environmental conditions via well-preserved faunal and floral assemblages. As they mostly comprise of calcite precipitated at ambient temperature, tufas are also suitable targets for geochemical research, especially concerning oxygen and carbon isotopes, and thus palaeoclimatic reconstructions. At Mituchovci in the Slovakian NW White Carpathians, a ca. 3 m-high tufa deposit has been extensively studied since 2010. The profile covers most of the Holocene as supported by 10 radiocarbon dates (from 9980±40 to 210±20 yr BP) and a detailed depth-age model (created in OxCal 4.2.4). Accumulation rates estimated from this age-depth model together with lithological/sedimentological information (especially CaCO3 content) provide preliminary assumptions on long-term climate and environment dynamic: e.g. maximal calcite precipitation between ca. 8 and 6.5 ky cal. BP suggests optimal conditions for tufa development (warm and wet). The Mituchovci tufa also provides abundant palaeoenvironmental data from a detailed continuous malacological record completed by plant macrofossil and pollen analyses. They show the progressive expansion of vegetation from ca. 11.3-11.0 ky cal. BP to a maximal development between 8.6 and 6.6 ky cal. BP. After this optimum, human activities increasingly impact the forest cover. From 500 years cal. BP, all biomarkers suggest that the site was entirely deforested and maintained as a meadow. Parallel, geochemical data (including calcite δ18O and δ13C, and Mg/Ca ratio) provide independent palaeoclimate reconstructions showing strong correlations with the palaeoenvironmental records. Some short-term climate variations to drier and cooler conditions are also well recorded in the Mituchovce geochemical signal. Those multidisciplinary data allow discussing (1) the potential effects of some globally significant Holocene rapid climate changes (especially the 8.2 ky event and the Little Ice Age) and (2) the increasing impact of human activities on the White Carpathian environments.
... Within the interval of 8,600-8,000 cal. BP, different levels of climate moistening have been recorded elsewhere in the Carpathians (Feurdean et al. 2014;Hájková et al. 2016;Juřičková et al. 2017), including the White Carpathians Dabkowski et al. 2018) neighbouring to the west. The increased humidity coincided with an increase of Tilia pollen as well as Ustulina (fungus) and monolete (ferns) spores. ...
... BP). These events might be driven by the increasing rainfall amount, which is indicated by trace element ratios in Western Carpathian carbonates (Juřičková et al. 2017;Dabkowski et al. 2018), but not by the MCM. An alternative, but less probable, explanation might be either stochastic changes in groundwater movement or disturbances by wild animals that created small pools; the latter explanation is not supported by the record of coprophilous fungi. ...
There is still not enough palaeoecological data from the southwestern part of the Western Carpathians, where mountain ridges steeply rise from the dry and warm Pannonian basin. The reason is a low availability of sites with sediments harbouring fossil remains. In the Považský Inovec Mts, two small protected calcareous wetlands occur in different geographical position and contain suitable sediments. One represents a foothill site (initiated ca 13,000 cal. BP) whereas the other a low-mountain site (initiated ca 7,400 cal. BP). We investigated fossil pollen, spores, and macroscopic remains of plants and molluscs from their sediments. We further reviewed archaeological data, constructed a macrophysical climate model (MCM) and confronted it with other palaeoclimatic proxies. Temperate deciduous trees (Quercus, Corylus and Ulmus) occurred since the Allerød, but their expansion was blocked by a harsh climate in Younger Dryas, when Larix, Pinus and Betula nana still occurred. The climate firstly moistened at ca 9,500 cal. BP and more distinctly at ca 8,500 cal. BP, which was reflected by a strong calcium carbonate precipitation and expansion of Tilia cordata t., Hedera helix, and Ustulina. Although the MCM predicted a rather stable climate since 8,000 cal. BP, certain changes in aquatic mollusc abundances may indicate hydrological fluctuations, as they are paralleled by changes in climate humidity indicated by other evidence from the Western Carpathians. Younger hydrological fluctuations may be alternatively explained by human activities as they correspond with macro-charcoal abundance and indicators of wetland openness. During their existence, both fens harboured only few fen plant and mollusc species specialized to low-productive sedge-moss fens. In the Middle Holocene both sites were encroached by woody plants (Alnus, Picea and Salix), as most other spring fens in the Western Carpathians. Contrary to some other spring fens with similar site conditions in the Western Carpathians, few fen specialists established in the study sites since deforestation, presumably because of severe disturbances caused by grazing and/or hemp retting instead of the usual mowing.
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