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Modern pollen/vegetation/land-use relationships in mountain environments: an example from the Champsaur valley (French Alps)

Mona Court-Picon, Alexandre Buttler and Jacques-Louis de Beaulieu
Vegetation History and Archaeobotany
Vol. 15, No. 3 (June, 2006), pp. 151-168
Published by: Springer
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/23419594
Page Count: 18
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Modern pollen/vegetation/land-use relationships in mountain environments: an example from the Champsaur valley (French Alps)
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Abstract

This study aims at elucidating modern pollen spectra/environmental data relationships from both natural and human-induced vegetation types as an aid for palaeoecological reconstructions. A set of 51 surface moss polsters was sampled from different vegetation and land-use types in the Champsaur area (French Alps) and analysed to obtain modern pollen analogues of ancient cultural landscapes in mountain ecosystems. Samples were selected from grazed areas, mown meadows, cultivated fields, fallow land and deciduous and coniferous forests. Vegetation composition around the sampling points and seventeen types of environmental variables (e.g., management type, soil and topography) were collected all for these 51 sites. Patterns of modern local pollen variation in relation to the environmental variables were explored by means of canonical correspondence analysis (CCA) and associated statistical tests. This correlative model allows us to determine the major explanatory variables and to identify taxa indicative of particular anthropogenic activities, and thus may help to calibrate fossil pollen assemblages. The indicator pollen types are evaluated in the light of comparable material from lowland and mid-elevation areas of western Europe. The results of the French data-set confirm some of the conclusions drawn from the North European data-sets, but also show some site specific features. Pollen markers with a broader global significance common to other regions include Rhinanthus type, Apiaceae and Dipsacaceae for mown meadows, Urtica type, Plantago media/major, Trifolium type and Potentilla type for grazed areas, and Cerealia type, Centaurea cyanus, and Polygonum aviculare for cultivated fields. New pollen anthropogenic indicators typical of our study area are Sanguisorba officinalis, Vicia type (mowing), Lotus type, Onobrychis type, Centaurea nigra type, Serratula type (grazing), Sinapis type and Papaver rhoeas (cultivation). This study provides potentially valuable analogues for human-induced vegetation types, and it may then become possible to interpret more objectively local pollen diagrams from Alpine mountain environments in terms of past cultural landscape development.

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