Lateglacial-Holocene abrupt vegetation changes at Lago Trifoglietti in Calabria, Southern Italy: the setting of ecosystems in a refugial zone

Jacques Louis de Beaulieu*, Elisabetta Brugiapaglia, Sébastien Joannin, Frédéric Guiter, Giovanni Zanchetta, Sabine Wulf, Odile Peyron, Liliana Bernardo, Julien Didier, Agnès Stock, Damien Rius, Michel Magny

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Retrospective science such as palaeoecology deeply depends on the preservation of archives in sensitive places. As an example, mountains of medium altitude from Mediterranean peninsulas have long been identified by biogeographers as refuges zones allowing the survival of European temperate taxa during the ice ages, but archives to validate this hypothesis are scarce, especially in Southern Italy. Here we present a new sequence from Lago Trifoglietti (1048 m a.s.l.) in the Calabrian Mountains, which covers the Late Glacial Interstadial (LGI, corresponding to the Bölling-Alleröd period in northern-central Europe) and the transition to the Holocene. The independent chronology based on seven radiocarbon dates is supported by the evidence of three tephra layers already identified in other regional sequences. During the LGI, besides the high diversity of non arboreal pollen grains, a great number of pollens of temperate forest trees are present or abundant (mostly deciduous oaks and fir). These assemblages suggest that the site was above but not far from the upper limit of diversified woodland stands. They confirm a local survival during the last glacial. The Younger Dryas is not marked by major changes, and oak percentages are even higher, suggesting a resilient expansion at lower altitude. Surprisingly the site remains above the timberline until an aridity crisis centered at 11,100 cal 14C yr PB, which is correlated with the Preboreal Oscillation (PBO). This event is immediately followed by the local settlement of a dense fir and beech forest around the lake. A comparison with other Italian key sequences aims at explaining the climate forcing factors that governed this original vegetation dynamic. Further investigations using additional proxies are needed for a more robust climate reconstruction.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)44-57
Number of pages14
JournalQuaternary Science Reviews
Early online date12 Jan 2017
Publication statusPublished - 15 Feb 2017


  • Calabrian Mountains
  • Glacial refuges
  • Lago Trifoglietti
  • Lake sediments
  • LGI-early Holocene
  • Pollen record
  • Preboreal oscillation
  • Tephrochronology


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