A multi-proxy approach to understanding complex responses of salt-lake catchments to climate variability and human pressure: A Late Quaternary case study from south-eastern, Spain

Samantha Elsie Jones, Francesc Burjachs (Collaborator), Carlos Ferrer (Collaborator), Lothar Schulte (Collaborator), Santiago Giralt (Collaborator), Javier Fernandez Lopez de Pablo (Collaborator)

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14 Citations (Scopus)


This article focuses on a former salt lake in the upper Vinalopó Valley in south-eastern Spain. The study spans the Late Pleistocene through to the Late Holocene, although with particular focus on the period between 11 ka cal BP and 3000 ka cal BP (which spans the Mesolithic and part of the Bronze Age). High resolution multi-proxy analysis (including pollen, non pollen palynomorphs, grain size, X-ray fluorescence and X-ray diffraction) was undertaken on the lake sediments. The results show strong sensitivity to both long term and small changes in the evaporation/precipitation ratio, affecting the surrounding vegetation composition, lake-biota and sediment geochemistry.

To summarise the key findings the main general trends identified include: 1) Hyper-saline conditions and low lake levels at the end of the Late Glacial 2) Increasing wetness and temperatures which witnessed an expansion of mesophilic woodland taxa, lake infilling and the establishment of a more perennial lake system at the onset of the Holocene 3) An increase in solar insolation after 9 ka cal BP which saw the re-establishment of pine forests 4) A continued trend towards increasing dryness (climatic optimum) at 7 ka cal BP but with continued freshwater input 5) An increase in sclerophyllous open woody vegetation (anthropogenic?), and increasing wetness (climatic?) is represented in the lake record between 5.9 and 3 ka cal BP 6) The Holocene was also punctuated by several aridity pulses, the most prominent corresponding to the 8.2 ka cal BP event. These events, despite a paucity of well dated archaeological sites in the surrounding area, likely altered the carrying capacity of this area both regionally and locally, particularly during the Mesolithic-Neolithic transition, in terms of fresh water supply for human/animal consumption, wild plant food reserves and suitable land for crop growth.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)201-223
Number of pages13
JournalQuaternary Science Reviews
Early online date13 Feb 2018
Publication statusPublished - 15 Mar 2018

Bibliographical note

We would like to thank the European Union for funding this project (PRETM, Grant number 628589), the spanish MINECO funding agency (Grant numbers RyC-2011-09363 and IEDI-2017-00889) who have supported the co-author JFL, the Spanish government and land owners for allowing the fieldwork, the geologist who extracted the core samples (Mateo Chirlaque), the IPHES administration staff, Dr Chris Hunt for his advice, the CHRONO department in Belfast for carrying out the 14C analysis, Isabel Expósito for the pollen preps, Jaime Frigola for his assistance and training with the XRF machine; and Montserrat Guart-Fernández for the grain size analysis and to both reviewers whose comments and advice have greatly improved this manuscript.


  • Lateglacial
  • Holocene
  • Western Europe
  • Vegetation dynamics
  • Geochemistry
  • Salt lake
  • climate dynamics
  • Aridity events
  • human carrying capacity
  • Western Mediterranean


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