The vegetation history of the Faroe Islands has been investigated in numerous studies all broadly showing that the early-Holocene vegetation of the islands largely consisted of fellfield with gravely and rocky soils formed under a continental climate which shifted to an oceanic climate around 10,000 cal yr BP when grasses, sedges and finally shrubs began to dominant the islands. Here we present data from three lake sediment cores and show a much more detailed history from geochemical and isotope data. These data show that the Faroe Islands were deglaciated by the end of Younger Dryas (11,700 10,300 cal yr BP), at this time relatively high sedimentation rates with high delta C-13 imply poor soil development. delta C-13, Ti and chi data reveal a much more stable and warm mid-Holocene until 7410 cal yr BP characterised by increasing vegetation cover and build up of organic soils towards the Holocene thermal maximum around 7400 cal yr BP. The final meltdown of the Laurentide ice sheet around 7000 cal yr BP appears to have impacted both ocean and atmospheric circulation towards colder conditions on the Faroe Islands. This is inferred by enhanced weathering and increased deposition of surplus sulphur (sea spray) and erosion in the highland lakes from about 7400 cal yr BP. From 4190 cal yr BP further cooling is believed to have occurred as a consequence for increased soil erosion due to freeze/thaw sequences related to oceanic and atmospheric variability. This cooling trend appears to have advanced further from 3000 cal yr BR A short period around 1800 cal yr BP appears as a short warm and wet phase in between a general cooling characterised by significant soil erosion lasting until 725 cal yr BP. Interestingly, increased soil erosion seems to have begun at 1360 cal yr BP, thus significantly before the arrival of the first settlers on the Faroe Island around 1150 cal yr BP, although additional erosion took place around 1200 cal yr BP possibly as a consequence of human activities. Hence it appears that if humans caused a change in the Faroe landscape in terms of erosion they in fact accelerated a process that had already started. Soil erosion was a dominant landscape factor during the Little Ice Age, but climate related triggers can hardly be distinguished from human activities. (c) 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Global and Planetary Change
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics