Mid to high latitude forest ecosystems have undergone several major compositional changes during the Holocene. The temporal and spatial patterns of these vegetation changes hold potential information to their causes and triggers. Here we test the hypothesis that the timing of vegetation change was synchronous on a sub-continental scale, which implies a common trigger or a step-like change in climate parameters. Pollen diagrams from selected European regions were statistically divided into assemblage zones and the temporal pattern of the zone boundaries analysed. The results show that the temporal pattern of vegetation change was significantly different from random. Times of change cluster around8.2, 4.8, 3.7, and 1.2 ka, while times of higher than average stability were found around 2.1 and 5.1 ka.Compositional changes linked to the expansion of Corylus avellana and Alnus glutinosa centre around 10.6 and 9.5 ka, respectively. A climatic trigger initiating these changes may have occurred 0.5 to 1 ka earlier, respectively. The synchronous expansion of C. avellana and A. glutinosa exemplify that dispersal is not necessarily followed by population expansion. The partly synchronous, partly random expansion of A. glutinosa in adjacent European regions exemplifies that sudden synchronous population expansions are not species specific traits but vary regionally.
- Global and Planetary Change
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics