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Title: Linking forest cover, soil erosion and mire hydrology to late-Holocene human activity and climate in NW Spain
Authors: Silva-Sánchez, N
Martínez Cortizas, A
López-Merino, L
Keywords: Catchment hydrology;Deforestation;Geochemistry;HdV-18;Non-pollen palynomorphs;Pollen;Principal components analysis;Soil erosion
Issue Date: 2014
Publisher: SAGE Publications Ltd
Citation: Holocene, 24 (6): 714 - 725, (2014)
Abstract: Forest clearance is one of the main drivers of soil erosion and hydrological changes in mires, although climate may also play a significant role. Because of the wide range of factors involved, understanding these complex links requires long-term multi-proxy approaches and research on the best proxies to focus. A peat core from NW Spain (Cruz do Bocelo mire), spanning the last ~3000 years, has been studied at high resolution by physical (density and loss on ignition (LOI)), geochemical (elemental composition) and palynological (pollen and non-pollen palynomorphs) analyses. Proxies related to mineral matter fluxes from the catchment (lithogenic tracers, Glomus and Entorrhiza), rainfall (Bromine), mire hydrology (HdV-18), human pressure (Cerealia-type, nitrophilous taxa and coprophilous fungi) and forest cover (mesophilous tree taxa) were the most useful to reconstruct the evolution of the mire and its catchment. Forest clearance for farming was one of the main drivers of environmental change from at least the local Iron Age (~2685 cal. yr BP) onwards. The most intense phase of deforestation occurred during Roman and Germanic times and the late Middle Ages. During these phases, the entire catchment was affected, resulting in enhanced soil erosion and severe hydrological modifications of the mire. Climate, especially rainfall, may have also accelerated these processes during wetter periods. However, it is noteworthy that the hydrology of the mire seems to have been insensitive to rainfall variations when mesophilous forest dominated. Abrupt changes were only detected once intense forest clearance commenced during the Iron Age/Roman transition (~2190 cal. yr BP) phase, which represented a tipping point in catchment's ability to buffer impacts. Overall, our findings highlight the importance of studying ecosystems' long-term trajectories and catchment-wide processes when implementing mire habitat protection measures.
Description: This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 License ( which permits non-commercial use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access page (
This article has been made available through the Brunel Open Access Publishing Fund.
ISSN: 0959-6836
Appears in Collections:Brunel OA Publishing Fund
Institute for the Environment

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