Climate variability over the last 92 ka in SW Balkans from analysis of sediments from Lake Prespa
The transboundary Lake Prespa (Albania/former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia/Greece) has been recognized as a conservation priority wetland. The high biodiversity encountered in the catchment at present points to the refugial character of this mountainous region in the southwestern Balkans. A lake sediment core retrieved from a coring location in the northern part of the lake was investigated through sedimentological, geochemical, and palynological analyses. Based on tephrochronology, radiocarbon and electron spin resonance (ESR) dating, and cross correlation with other Northern Hemisphere records, the age model suggests that the basal part of core Co1215 reaches back to 92 ka cal BP. Here we present the responses of this mid-altitude site (849 m a.s.l.) to climate oscillations during this interval and assess its sensitivity to millennial-scale variability. Endogenic calcite precipitation occurred in marine isotope stages (MIS) 5 and 1 and is synchronous with periods of increased primary production (terrestrial and/or lacustrine). Periods of pronounced phytoplankton blooms (inferred from green algae and dinoflagellate concentrations) are recorded in MIS 5 and MIS 1 and suggest that the trophic state and lake levels underwent substantial fluctuations. Three major phases of vegetation development are distinguished: the forested phases of MIS 5 and MIS 1 dominated by deciduous trees with higher temperatures and moisture availability, the open landscapes of MIS 3 with significant presence of temperate trees, and the pine-dominated open landscapes of MIS 4 and MIS 2 with lower temperatures and moisture availability. Our findings suggest significant changes in forest cover and landscape openness, as well as in the properties of the vegetation belts (composition and distribution) over the period examined. The study area most likely formed the upper limit of several drought-sensitive trees (temperate tree refugium) at these latitudes in the Mediterranean mountains.