High resolution ancient sedimentary DNA shows that alpine plant diversity is associated with human land use and climate change

Garcés-Pastor, Sandra and Coissac, Eric and Lavergne, Sébastien and Schwörer, Christoph and Theurillat, Jean-Paul and Heintzman, Peter D. and Wangensteen, Owen S. and Tinner, Willy and Rey, Fabian and Heer, Martina and Rutzer, Astrid and Walsh, Kevin and Lammers, Youri and Brown, Antony G. and Goslar, Tomasz and Rijal, Dilli P. and Karger, Dirk N. and Pellissier, Loïc and The PhyloAlps Consortium, and Heiri, Oliver and Alsos, Inger Greve. (2022) High resolution ancient sedimentary DNA shows that alpine plant diversity is associated with human land use and climate change. Nature Communications (13). p. 6559.

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The European Alps are highly rich in species, but their future may be threatened by ongoing changes in human land use and climate. Here, we reconstructed vegetation, temperature, human impact and livestock over the past ~12,000 years from Lake Sulsseewli, based on sedimentary ancient plant and mammal DNA, pollen, spores, chironomids, and microcharcoal. We assembled a highly-complete local DNA reference library (PhyloAlps, 3923 plant taxa), and used this to obtain an exceptionally rich sed aDNA record of 366 plant taxa. Vegetation mainly responded to climate during the early Holocene, while human activity had an additional influence on vegetation from 6 ka onwards. Land-use shifted from episodic grazing during the Neolithic and Bronze Age to agropastoralism in the Middle Ages. Associated human deforestation allowed the coexistence of plant species typically found at different elevational belts, leading to levels of plant richness that characterise the current high diversity of this region. Our findings indicate a positive association between low intensity agropastoral activities and precipitation with the maintenance of the unique subalpine and alpine plant diversity of the European Alps.
Faculties and Departments:05 Faculty of Science > Departement Umweltwissenschaften > Geowissenschaften > Geoökologie (Heiri)
UniBasel Contributors:Heiri, Oliver and Rey, Fabian
Item Type:Article, refereed
Article Subtype:Research Article
Publisher:Nature Research
Note:Publication type according to Uni Basel Research Database: Journal article
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Last Modified:19 Dec 2022 13:32
Deposited On:19 Dec 2022 13:32

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