Trees or no trees? The environments of central and eastern Europe during the Last Glaciation
Willis KJ., Van Andel TH.
The location and survival of trees in the coldest stages of the last full-glacial has long been of interest to palaeoecologists, biogeographers, archaeologists and geneticists alike. In particular, where species survived in isolated refugia and the influence that this has had upon the long-term ancestry of the populations, remain key research questions. However, the exact location of refugia during the coldest stages of the full-glacial still remains illusive for many species of fauna and flora, with different lines of evidence often being at odds. This is particularly true for Europe. Emerging evidence from various fossil proxies, palaeoclimatic modelling and genetic research is starting to suggest that the traditional paradigm that trees were restricted to southern Europe and in particular the three southern peninsulas (Balkan, Italian and Iberian) during the full-glacial is questionable. This is backed by increasing evidence, including 151 14 C-dated and identified pieces of macrofossil charcoal wood from 40 localities in central and eastern Europe to indicate that during the last full-glacial populations of coniferous and some deciduous trees grew much further north and east than previously assumed. This paper reviews the fossil evidence and considers it alongside genetic and palaeoclimatic evidence in order to contribute towards a newly emerging synthesis of the full-glacial refugial localities in Europe and their influence upon the ancestry of European species. Plotted against a new high-resolution millennial time-scale for the interval ∼32-∼16 ka BP in Greenland our evidence shows that coniferous as well as some broadleaf trees were continuously present throughout those interstadial/stadial cycles for which there are adequate data. © 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.