A 22 570-year record of vegetational and climatic change from Wenhai Lake in the Hengduan Mountains biodiversity hotspot, Yunnan, Southwest China
Abstract. The Hengduan Mountains, with their strong altitudinal vegetation zonation, form a biodiversity hotspot which offers the potential for comparison between sites in order to understand how this zonation arose and how it has responded to climate change and human impacts through time. This paper presents a 22 570-year pollen record of vegetational and climatic change based on a core 320 cm in depth collected from Wenhai Lake on Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, one of the highest peaks in the Hengduan Mountains region of Yunnan, Southwest China. From 22 570 to 21 140 cal yr BP, the vegetation was dominated by broad-leaved forest (comprising mainly Quercus, Betula and Castanopsis), accompanied by needle-leaved forest (mainly Pinus and Abies), indicating a rather cold and dry climate relative to the present followed by cold and wet conditions. In the period between 21 140 and 19 350 cal yr BP, the vegetation was still dominated by broad-leaved forest and needle-leaved forest as before but with a notable increase in Betula pollen and a sharp decrease in Quercus pollen, implying a relatively cold and dry climate with several fluctuations in humidity. The period 19 350 to 17 930 cal yr BP was a transition stage from broad-leaved forest to needle-leaved forest, with a dramatic decrease in Quercus pollen and a maximum reading for Abies pollen, reflecting the coldest and driest climate since 22 570 cal yr BP. The expansion in needle-leaved forest dominated by Pinus and Abies (22 570–17 930 cal yr BP) along with an increase of Betula might correspond to the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM; the start of the LGM perhaps occurred prior to the basal age of the core). Between 17 930 and 9250 cal yr BP, needle-leaved forest declined and broad-leaved forest began to increase at first, suggesting increases in temperature and humidity, while towards the end of the period, needle-leaved forest expanded and broad-leaved forest shrank, indicating a colder and drier climate, possibly corresponding to the Younger Dryas. From 9250 cal yr BP to the present, the vegetation has been dominated by needle-leaved forest (comprising mainly Pinus, Abies and Tsuga), interspersed with broad-leaved Quercus and Betula, reflecting a significant decline in humidity from the early to late Holocene. During this period, human activity likely increased in this region, with impacts on the vegetation such as a distinct decrease in Pinus and Quercus pollen and an increase in Polygonaceae pollen in the upper 30 cm of the core. The marked decline in Quercus pollen compared with the early stage of this period, in particular, in the Wenhai core can be correlated with that observed in the Haligu core (situated about 2 km away) between 2400 cal yr BP and the present.