Recent ecological responses to climate variability and human impact in the Nianbaoyeze Mountains (eastern Tibetan Plateau) inferred from pollen, diatom and tree ring data


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Ulrike.Herzschuh [ at ] awi.de

Abstract

The Tibetan Plateau is a region that is highly sensitive to recent global warming, but the complexity and heterogeneity of its mountainous landscape can result in variable responses. In addition, the scarcity and brevity of regional instrumental and palaeoecological records still hamper our understanding of past and present patterns of environmental change. To investigate how the remote, high-alpine environments of the Nianbaoyeze Mountains, eastern Tibetan Plateau, are affected by climate change and human activity over the last ~600 years, we compared regional tree-ring studies with pollen and diatom remains archived in the dated sediments of Dongerwuka Lake (33.22°N, 101.12°E, 4,307 m a.s.l.). In agreement with previous studies from the eastern Tibetan Plateau, a strong coherence between our two juniper-based tree-ring chronologies from the Nianbaoyeze and the Anemaqin Mountains was observed, with pronounced cyclical variations in summer temperature reconstructions. A positive directional trend to warmer summer temperatures in the most recent decades, was, however, not observed in the tree-ring record. Likewise, our pollen and diatom spectra showed minimal change over the investigated time period. Although modest, the most notable change in the diatom relative abundances was a subtle decrease in the dominant planktonic Cyclotella ocellata and a concurrent increase in small, benthic fragilarioid taxa in the ~1820s, suggesting higher ecosystem variability. The pollen record subtly indicates three periods of increased cattle grazing activity (~1400–1480 AD, ~1630–1760 AD, after 1850 AD), but shows generally no significant vegetation changes during past ~600 years. The minimal changes observed in the tree-ring, diatom and pollen records are consistent with the presence of localised cooling centres that are evident in instrumental and tree-ring data within the southeastern and eastern Tibetan Plateau. Given the minor changes in regional temperature records, our complacent palaeoecological profiles suggest that climatically induced ecological thresholds have not yet been crossed in the Nianbaoyeze Mountains region.



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ISI/Scopus peer-reviewed
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Eprint ID
42042
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Wischnewski, J. , Herzschuh, U. , Rühland, K. , Bräuning, A. , Mischke, S. , Smol, J. P. and Wang, L. (2013): Recent ecological responses to climate variability and human impact in the Nianbaoyeze Mountains (eastern Tibetan Plateau) inferred from pollen, diatom and tree ring data , Journal of Paleolimnology, (51), pp. 287-302 .


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