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Neotropical vegetation response to rapid climate changes during the last glacial period: Palynological evidence from the Cariaco Basin

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 January 2017

Catalina González*
Research Center Ocean Margins/Marum, University of Bremen, Leobener Strasse, 28359 Bremen, Germany
Lydie M. Dupont
Research Center Ocean Margins/Marum, University of Bremen, Leobener Strasse, 28359 Bremen, Germany
Hermann Behling
Department of Palynology and Climate Dynamics, Institute for Plant Sciences, University of Göttingen, Untere Karspüle 2, 37073 Göttingen, Germany
Gerold Wefer
Research Center Ocean Margins/Marum, University of Bremen, Leobener Strasse, 28359 Bremen, Germany
*Corresponding author. Fax: +49 421 218 65505.E-mail (C. González), (L.M. Dupont), (H. Behling), (G. Wefer).


We present new palynological information from the anoxic Cariaco Basin, off Venezuela, that provides insight into the response of northernmost South American vegetation to rapid climate changes between 68 and 28 ka, specifically during North Atlantic Heinrich events (HEs) and Dansgaard/Oeschger cycles. We defined three different vegetation modes: (1) an interstadial mode characterized by the highest pollen concentration and the maximum extension of semi-deciduous and evergreen forests; (2) a stadial mode characterized by increases of salt marshes, herbs, and montane forests; and (3) a Heinrich event mode characterized by the lowest pollen concentrations, abrupt increases of salt marshes, and decreased forest abundance. Similarly, indices of C4/C3 plants show increases during stadials with clear peaks during the onset of HEs, though grasslands did not become dominant during these periods. We alternatively propose that these expansions of C4 plants are associated with the expansion of coastal salt marshes. Our vegetation record suggests the prevalence of humid conditions during interstadials, dry and cold conditions during stadials, and dry and cold conditions together with changes in sea level during HEs. This new palynological evidence supports previous interpretations that main environmental changes in northernmost South America were driven by latitudinal displacements of the Intertropical Convergence Zone and sea-level changes.

Research Article
University of Washington

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