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Lateglacial environmental change in Scotland

  • Mike WALKER (a1) and John LOWE (a2)

Abstract

This paper reviews the evidence for environmental change during the Lateglacial period (c.14.7–11.7 ka), perhaps the most intensively studied episode in the Quaternary history of Scotland. It considers first the stratigraphic subdivision and nomenclature of the Lateglacial, before proceeding to a discussion of the various lines of proxy evidence that have been used to reconstruct the spatial and temporal patterns of environmental change during this time period. These include pollen and plant macrofossil data; coleopteran and chironomid records; diatom data; stable isotope and geochemical records; and evidence for human activity. The paper then considers the principal methods that have been employed to date and correlate Lateglacial events: radiocarbon dating; surface exposure dating; varve chronology; and tephrochronology. This is followed by an examination of the constraints imposed on environmental reconstructions, an account of the ways in which the evidence can be employed in the development of an event stratigraphy for the Lateglacial in Scotland, and a proposal for a provisional Lateglacial type sequence (stratotype) at Whitrig Bog in SE Scotland. Emphasis is placed throughout on the potential linkages between the Scottish records and the isotopic signal in the Greenland ice cores, which forms the stratigraphic template for the N Atlantic region. The paper concludes with a discussion of the strategies and approaches that should underpin future research programmes on Lateglacial environmental change in Scotland.

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