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Holocene land cover change in south-western Amazonia inferred from paleoflood archives

Lombardo, Umberto, Ruiz-Pérez, Javier, Rodrigues, Leonor, Mestrot, Adrien, Mayle, Francis, Madella, Marco, Szidat, Sönke, Veit, Heinz
Global and planetary change 2019 v.174 pp. 105-114
climate, climate change, drought, ecosystems, flooded conditions, forests, land cover, landscapes, paleoclimatology, paleosolic soil types, rivers, savannas, silica, stable isotopes, topography, vegetation cover, winter, Amazonia
This study provides new data on the evolution of the landscape in south-western Amazonia during the Holocene and the impact of climate change and fluvial dynamics on the region's ecosystems. South-western Amazonia is covered by an extensive seasonally flooded savannah, known as the Llanos de Moxos. Severe drought during the southern hemisphere winter, followed by months of permanent waterlogging, means that forests only grow on the most elevated parts of the landscape, mostly river and paleoriver levees and crevasse splays. Paleoclimate reconstructions from surrounding areas show that a shift to wetter conditions at around 4 kyr BP caused an increase in forest cover. However, the impact that this change in climate had on the landscape of the Llanos de Moxos is unknown. Published lacustrine archives from the area only cover the last 2 kyr. Here we present new data from the analysis of paleosols located along a 300 km transect across the central Llanos. The analyses of stable carbon isotopes, from 36 paleosols, and biogenic silica, from 29 paleosols, show that the patchwork of forests and savannahs that we see today was established after the 4 kyr BP climate change. During the dry period between 8 and 4 kyr BP, most of the central Llanos de Moxos, nowadays covered with seasonally flooded savannah, were covered by Cerrado-like savannah in the west and by forest in the east. However, results also suggest that, at both regional and local scales, vegetation cover has been influenced by changes in topography resulting from the region's river dynamics.