The ELSA-Vegetation-Stack: reconstruction of Landscape Evolution Zones (LEZ) from laminated Eifel maar sediments of the last 60,000 years

F. Sirocko*, H. Knapp, F. Dreher, M. W. Förster, J. Albert, H. Brunck, D. Veres, S. Dietrich, M. Zech, U. Hambach, M. Röhner, S. Rudert, K. Schwibus, C. Adams, P. Sigl

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Citations (Scopus)


Laminated sediment records from several maar lakes and dry maar lakes of the Eifel (Germany) reveal the history of climate, weather, environment, vegetation, and land use in central Europe during the last 60,000years. The time series of the last 30,000years is based on a continuous varve counted chronology, the MIS3 section is tuned to the Greenland ice - both with independent age control from 14C dates. Total carbon, pollen and plant macrofossils are used to synthesize a vegetation-stack, which is used together with the stacks from seasonal varve formation, flood layers, eolian dust content and volcanic tephra layers to define Landscape Evolution Zones (LEZ). LEZ 1 encompasses the landscape dynamics of the last 6000years with widespread human influence. The natural oak and hazel forests of the early Holocene back to 10,500b2k define LEZ 2. LEZ 3, the late glacial between 10,500 and 14,700b2k, shows the development of a boreal forest with abundant grass and shallow water biomass in the lakes. The maximum of the last glaciation (LEZ 4: 14,700-23,000b2k) was characterized by sparse vegetation of moss and characeae. These sediments are generally devoid of clay and sand and reveal no indication of snow-meltwater events. Accordingly, the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) must have been extremely arid in central Europe. The sediments of the subsequent LEZ 5 from 23,000-28,500b2k preserve distinct layers of clay and coarse sand, which indicates running water with clay in suspension and ephemeral coarse-grained fluvial sediment discharge. Abundant Ranunculaceae macroremains (used for 14C dating), insects, moss and fungi sclerotia reflect a tundra environment during a time of frequent strong snowmelt events. Total carbon content, Betula-Pinus pollen and diatoms reach increased concentrations during Marine Isotope Stage (MIS) 3 interstadials that occurred between 28,500 and 36,500b2k (LEZ 6). The entire MIS3 interstadials are well documented in the organic carbon record from the Auel dry maar. The main paleobotanical indicators of MIS3 are, however, grass pollen and heliophytes, which indicate a steppe environment with scattered/patchy trees during the interstadials. The stadial phases inferred during LEZ 6 reveal initiation of eolian dust deflation. The change of the early MIS 3 forested landscape to a steppe occurred with the LEZ 7-LEZ 6 transition. This is when modern man spread in central Europe. The principle vegetation change to a steppe at 36,500b2k must have favoured the spread of horses, an important hunting prey of modern humans. We propose accordingly that the migration of the modern humans into central Europe might have been at least partly driven by climate and associated vegetation change. The LEZ 7 encompassed the time interval 36,500 to 49,000b2k and was characterized by a boreal forest with high abundance of pine, birch, as well as spruce during the interstadial events. Abundant charcoal fragments indicate that this taiga was under frequent drought stress with regular burning. The most unexpected finding, but corroborated by all our maar records is the dominance of thermophilous tree taxa from 49,000 to 55,000b2k (LEZ 8). Greenland interstadials 13 and 14 were apparently the warmest of MIS 3 according to the Eifel pollen records. The preceeding LEZ 9 from 55,000 to 60,000b2k is also dominated by spruce, but thermophilous trees were sparse. A warm early MIS3 appears plausible, because summer insolation (at 60° N) was higher in the early MIS 3 than today, ice cover was low in Scandinavia and sea-surface temperatures of the North Atlantic were almost comparable to modern values during GI-14.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)108-135
Number of pages28
JournalGlobal and Planetary Change
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Eifel
  • Ice core tuning
  • Maar lakes
  • MIS 3
  • Paleoclimate
  • Plant macroremains
  • Pollen
  • Total carbon
  • Vegetation


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