The last 16 000 cal. a of vegetation, fire and limnological history are described from the steppe-forest ecotone in the northernmost Nothofagus forest region east of the Andes (Mallín Vaca Lauquen, Neuquén Province, Argentina, latitude 36° 51.336' S, longitude 71° 02.538' W). Between 16 000 and 14 800 cal. a BP, scrub steppe with substantial open ground expanded in formerly glaciated valleys, whereas Nothofagus-Prumnopitys andina woodland covered mountain slopes. The site was a relatively deep and unproductive small lake at this time. After 14 800 cal. a BP, both steppe and woodland vegetation became denser, indicating increased moisture and temperatures, although not to present levels. The lake was still relatively deep and dystrophic, but became more alkaline by 10 000 cal. a BP. Between 8900 and 5500 cal. a BP, conditions were markedly drier than before; a Cyperaceae marsh developed and disturbance taxa increased. After 5500 cal. a BP, moisture increased but varied greatly, as evidenced by fluctuating water levels and high fire activity from 5500 to 4400 cal. a BP and from 2300 to 1000 cal. a BP. Human activity, in terms of forest clearance and livestock grazing, is documented in the uppermost levels. The evidence of high environmental variability in the middle and late Holocene is consistent with the onset or strengthening of the El Niño-Southern Oscillation, but differences in the timing of fire activity among sites on the west and east sides of the Andes suggest that fuel conditions were important in determining the local occurrence of fire.
- Fire and climate history
- Holocene vegetation
- Mid-latitude Argentine andes
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)