EGU General Assembly 2021
© Author(s) 2021. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Vegetation dynamics of the eastern Mediterranean region during the Holocene

Esmeralda Cruz-Silva1, Sandy P. Harrison1, Elena Marinova2, and I. Colin Prentice3,4
Esmeralda Cruz-Silva et al.
  • 1Department of Geography and Environmental Science, University of Reading, Reading, UK
  • 2Laboratory for Archaeobotany, State Office for Cultural Heritage Baden-Württemberg, Germany
  • 3Department of Life Sciences, Imperial College London, Ascot, UK
  • 4Department of Biological Sciences, Macquarie University, North Ryde, NSW, Australia

The circum-Mediterranean region is characterized by high climatic diversity derived from its orographic heterogeneity and the influence of global marine and atmospheric circulation patterns. The region also has a long and dynamic history of human occupation dating back to ~ 8000 years BP.  The complexity of this area is a challenge for reconstructing the dynamics of the vegetation through the Holocene. Rule-based approaches to reconstructing changing vegetation patterns through time are insufficient as they require the imposition of subjective boundaries between biomes and can be affected by known biases in pollen representation.  We have developed and tested a new method that characterises biomes as a function of observed pollen assemblages based on a similarity index, conceptually related to the likelihood function, which takes account of within-biome variability in taxon abundances. We use 1181 modern pollen samples from the EMBSeCBIO database and assign these samples to biomes as represented in a map of potential natural vegetation that was developed using machine learning. The method was applied down-core to reconstruct past vegetation changes. Preliminary results show that this new methodology produces more accurate biome assignments under modern conditions (<80% accuracy) and more stable down-core reconstructions, apparently reducing the "flickering switch" problem found when using the traditional biomisation method for this purpose. Climate-induced vegetation changes are observable on a sub-regional scale in the Eastern Mediterranean through the Holocene. Most of the records show a change from humid to more arid biomes between 4000 and 3000 years BP. However, they are distinct subregional patterns in the expression and timing of wetter conditions during the Holocene. Mountain regions appear to show more muted changes during the Holocene, although there are biome shifts everywhere across the Pleistocene-Holocene transition.

How to cite: Cruz-Silva, E., Harrison, S. P., Marinova, E., and Prentice, I. C.: Vegetation dynamics of the eastern Mediterranean region during the Holocene, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-6518,, 2021.


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