The 4.2 ka event in the vegetation record of the central Mediterranean
In this paper, the variation in forest cover in the central Mediterranean region, reflected by percentage changes in the arboreal pollen record, has been examined in relation to the 4.2 ka event. A total of 36 well-dated and detailed pollen records from latitudes between 45 and 36∘ N were selected and their vegetation dynamics between 5 and 3 ka examined in relation to the physiographic and climatic features of the study area and to the influence of human activity on past vegetation, as suggested by anthropogenic pollen indicators. We have found that the sites located between 43 and 45∘ N do not show any significant vegetation change in correspondence with the 4.2 ka event. Several sites located on the Italian Peninsula between 39 and 43∘ N show a marked opening of the forest, suggesting a vegetation response to the climate instability of the 4.2 ka event. Between 36 and 39∘ N, a forest decline is always visible around 4.2 ka, and in some cases it is dramatic. This indicates that this region was severely affected by a climate change towards arid conditions that lasted a few hundred years and was followed by a recovery of forest vegetation in the Middle Bronze Age. Human activity, especially intense in southern Italy, may have been favored by this natural opening of vegetation. In Sardinia and Corsica, no clear change in vegetation is observed at the same time. We suggest that during the 4.2 ka event southern Italy and Tunisia were under the prevalent influence of a north African climate system characterized by a persistent high-pressure cell.