Late Glacial-early holocene vegetation and environmental changes in the western Iberian Central System inferred from a key site: The Navamuño record, Béjar range (Spain)

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A new record from a long sediment core (S3) in Navamuño (1505 m asl, western Iberian Central System) provides the reconstruction of the vegetation history and environmental changes in the region between 15.6 and 10.6 ka cal BP, namely during the Late Glacial and the early Holocene, using a multiproxy analysis (pollen-based vegetation and climate reconstruction, sedimentary macrocharcoals, loss-on-ignition, magnetic susceptibility and X-ray fluorescence (XRF) measurements). The results are then compared with other sequences from the Iberian Central System and the whole Iberian Peninsula in order to better understand the past dynamics of the main forest constituents. The pollen record shows a shift from open pine forests ∼15.6–14.7 ka cal BP (Oldest Dryas) to mixed open pine-birch woodlands ∼14.7–14.0 ka cal BP (Bølling). Woodlands were succeeded by a steppe-like landscape until ∼13.4 ka cal BP (Older Dryas), which was replaced again by high-mountain pine forests and riparian woodlands ∼13.4–12.6 ka cal BP (Allerød). A great development of cold steppe grasslands linked to the decline of birch woodlands is documented ∼12.6–11.7 ka cal BP (Younger Dryas). The early Holocene (11.7–10.6 ka cal BP) was characterized by a progressive reforestation of the study area by pine and birch forests in the highlands and oak woods in the lowlands. Temperate tree taxa (Carpinus betulus, Castanea sativa, Corylus avellana, Fraxinus, Juglans, Tilia, and Ulmus) were also common but likely at lower elevations. Pollen of Fagus sylvatica was already recorded during the Late Glacial and the early Holocene. The marked increasing local fire activity during the warmer and wetter Allerød oscillation could be related to a rise in tree cover, supporting the climatically driven character of these fires. Nevertheless, the strong increase in fire activity during the Younger Dryas would probably be related to growing tree and shrub mortality, as well as to the wet/dry biphasic structure of this stadial. The standard “Modern Analogue Technique” has been also applied to the Navamuño sequence to provide quantitative climate estimations for the Late Glacial and the early Holocene periods. This record is one of the few continental archives that show the climatic trend between the Late Glacial and the early Holocene in central Iberia, agreeing with many other regional records from the Western Mediterranean.