Mid- and Late Holocene vegetation dynamics and fire history in the boreal forest of European Russia: A case study from Meshchera Lowlands
Climate, fire, and human activities strongly affected the development of vegetation communities during the Holocene, yet the relative importance of these individual factors remains unclear in many areas. This paper presents new multi-proxy records of environmental change for the Meshchera Lowlands (the central part of the East European Plain) during the Holocene. Changes in regional vegetation during the Mid- and Late Holocene were influenced by climate, fire regime and human impact, as indicated by pollen, plant macrofossil, charcoal and testate amoebae analysis from several peat cores, along with reconstruction of tree cover from pollen assemblages. Since 8500 cal yr BP, the vegetation history represented a series of consecutive phases of birch, birch-pine and pine-broadleaf forests, with introduction of spruce after 2500 cal yr BP. Maximal abundance of broadleaf tree species was detected from 4700 to 2000 cal yr BP. Vegetation dynamics were strongly influenced by human activity since 1400 cal yr BP. High fire frequency was recorded for the periods 8500–4500 cal yr BP and 3500–2000 cal yr BP, when the fire return interval varied from 40 to 80 years. Since 2000 cal yr BP, the fire return period exceeded 500 years suggesting a significant decline in fire frequency during the last two millennia.