Abstract Mediterranean mountainous environments are biodiversity hotspots and priority areas in conservation agendas. Although they are fragile and threatened by forecasted global change scenarios, their sensitivity to long-term environmental variability is still understudied. The Sierra Nevada range, located in southern Spain on the north-western European flanks of the Mediterranean basin, is a biodiversity hotspot. Consequently, Sierra Nevada provides an excellent model system to apply a palaeoecological approach to detect vegetation changes, explore the drivers triggering those changes, and how vegetation changes link to the present landscape in such a paradigmatic mountain system. A multi-proxy strategy (magnetic susceptibility, grain size, loss-on-ignition, macroremains, charcoal and palynological analyses) is applied to an 8400-year long lacustrine environmental archive from the Laguna de la Mosca (2889 masl). The long-term ecological data show how the Early Holocene pine forests transitioned towards mixed Pinus-Quercus submediterranean forests as a response to a decrease in seasonality at ~7.3 cal. kyr BP. The mixed Pinus-Quercus submediterranean forests collapsed drastically giving way to open evergreen Quercus formations at ~4.2 cal. kyr BP after a well-known aridity crisis. Under the forecasted northward expansion of the Mediterranean area due to global change-related aridity increase, mountain forests inhabiting territories adjacent to the Mediterranean Region could experience analogous responses to those detected in the Sierra Nevada forests to the Mid to Late Holocene aridification, moving from temperate to submediterranean and then Mediterranean formations.
Saúl Manzano, José S. Carrión, Lourdes López-Merino
Global and Planetary Change