Vegetation response to Holocene hydroclimatic variability in the aseasonal forests of the north-western Amazon

Molly Ruth Spater, Rommel Montúfar, Carmen X. Luzuriaga, Núria Cañellas-Boltà, Maria del Carmen Trapote, Rachel Smedley, Robert Marchant, Encarni Montoya

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Projected warming and intensification of the hydrological cycle across the Amazon threatens the functioning of some of the most biodiverse ecosystems on the planet. Interfluvial wetlands, or wetlands fed directly by precipitation or small streams, may be some of the most vulnerable to future hydroclimatic changes. In this study, we investigated a 7300-year-old sedimentary archive from an upland palm swamp in the Yasuní National Park (Ecuador) to reconstruct past vegetation dynamics, palaeo-hydroclimatic conditions and human history using pollen, charcoal and geochemical analysis. Pollen data revealed: i) a forest composition influenced by dry conditions 6000 years ago, ii) the development of a palm swamp 4500 years ago, and iii) the establishment of the modern closed-canopy Mauritia flexuosa dominated swamp (moretal) 400 years ago. X-ray fluorescence data indicated that changes in vegetation composition were related to fluctuations in relative moisture levels, which occurred coeval to identified regional climatic events, particularly the Mid Holocene Dry Event (MHDE). Analysis of charcoal revealed continuous presence of fire, albeit at very low levels, since 5000 cal yr BP, with increased values during the last millennium. Our results suggest a footprint of hydroclimatic transitions in the mid-to-late Holocene in the aseasonal forests of the northwest Amazon, highlighting the need to better understand the long-term ecology of these systems to better protect them in light of future climatic change.

Idioma originalInglés
Número de artículo112303
PublicaciónPalaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology
EstadoPublicada - 1 sep. 2024

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