Pollen-based biome reconstructions for China at 0 and 6000 years

Ge Yu*, I. Colin Prentice, Sandy P. Harrison, Xiangjun Sun

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

158 Citations (Scopus)


Biomization provides an objective and robust method of assigning pollen spectra to biomes so that pollen data can be mapped and compared directly with the output of biotageographic models. We have tested the applicability of this procedure, originally developed for Europe, to assign modern surface samples from China to biomes. The procedure successfully delineated the major vegetation types of China. When the same procedure was applied to fossil pollen samples for 6000 years ago, the reconstructions showed systematic differences from present, consistent with previous interpretations of vegetation changes since the mid-Holocene. In eastern China, the forest zones were systematically shifted northwards, such that cool mixed forests displaced taiga in northeastern China, while broad-leaved evergreen forest extended c. 300 km and temperate deciduous forest c. 500-600km beyond their present northern limits. In northwestern China, the area of desert and steppe vegetation was reduced compared to present. On the Tibetan Plateau, forest vegetation extended to higher elevations than today and the area of tundra was reduced. These shifts in biome distributions imply significant changes in climate since 6000 years ago that can be interpreted qualitatively as a response to orbital forcing and its secondary effects on the Asian monsoon.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1055-1069
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Biogeography
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Nov 1998
Externally publishedYes


  • Biomization
  • China
  • Mid-Holocene
  • Pollen
  • Vegetation patterns


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