Holocene vegetation dynamics and climate change in Kamchatka Peninsula, Russian Far East

Bernhard.Diekmann [ at ] awi.de


We re-examined sixteen pollen records from non-volcanic areas in the Kamchatka Peninsula to reconstruct vegetation and climate changes during the Holocene. Pollen recordswere first summarized and evaluated for each of three main physiographic regions: (1)Western Lowland(WL), open to the Sea of Okhotsk (6 records); (2) Central Kamchatka Depression (CKD), bordered by mountains (4 records); and (3) Eastern Coast (EC), facing the Pacific Ocean (6 records), and then compared over the peninsula. The synthesized data suggest that the climate over Kamchatka was generally wet and mild before ca. 5.8 ka (1 ka=1000 cal. yrs BP) due to strong and prolonged maritime influence. The first forest maximumin the CKD started at ca. 8.9, indicating awarmer climate; however, forest spread along the both coasts was delayed until ca. 7 ka, suggesting a possible modulation of greater effective moisture on the coastal sites. Thewarmest period at ca. 7–5.8 ka is defined by the evidence of maximal forest extension overall the peninsula. During that time, birch (Betula) prevailed over alder (Alnus) in forest everywhere except in the EC. Since ca. 5.8 ka, divergent vegetation patterns became evident in northern vs. southern and coastal vs. interior sites that correspondwith a shift fromwarmer/maritime climate to cooler/continental climate. Also, greater climate variability accompanied the Neoglacial cooling since 5.8 ka. This climate cooling, indicated by drastic shrub expansion, advanced southward from the northern coasts (ca. 5.8 ka) to the central interior and coastal areas (ca. 5 ka) and then to the south (ca. 3.5 ka). Subsequent warming, suggested by the evidence of a second forest maximum, advanced westward from the EC (ca. 5.2 ka) to the CKD (ca. 3.2 ka) and then to the WL (ca. 1.9 ka). An advance of larch (Larix) in the CKD since ca. 3.2 ka points to increased climate continentality and larger seasonal variations. In contrast, alder forest spread after ca. 1.7 ka, reported only from the southern EC and CKD sites, indicates a mild, maritime-like climate that also agrees with the first apparent advance of spruce (Picea) in the interior. The latest cooling event, indicated by another shrub expansion, shows eastward trend: it occurred much earlier at the WL (ca. 2.4–1.6 ka) then at the EC (ca. 900–350 cal. yrs BP), and was less evident in the CKD. Instead, therewas a remarkable coniferous expansion during the last millennium when both larch and spruce invaded and replaced deciduous forests so that by ca. 450–320 cal. yrs BP, an extensive coniferous forest (“Coniferous Island”) appeared in the interior of Kamchatka. Since ca. 300 cal. yrs BP, spruce expanded most rapidly what broadly coincides with the beginning of the Little Ice Age.

Item Type
Peer revision
ISI/Scopus peer-reviewed
Publication Status
Eprint ID
DOI 10.1016/j.revpalbo.2012.11.010

Cite as
Dirksen, V. , Dirksen, O. and Diekmann, B. (2013): Holocene vegetation dynamics and climate change in Kamchatka Peninsula, Russian Far East , Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology, 190 , pp. 48-65 . doi: 10.1016/j.revpalbo.2012.11.010



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