Thomas, Carrie L.; Jansen, Boris; Czerwiński, Sambor; Gałka, Mariusz; Knorr, Klaus-Holger; van Loon, E. Emiel; Egli, Markus; Wiesenberg, Guido L. B.

As peatlands are a major terrestrial sink in the global carbon cycle, gaining an understanding of their development and changes throughout time is essential in order to predict their future carbon budget and potentially mitigate the adverse outcomes of climate change. With this aim to understand peat development, many studies have investigated the paleoecological dynamics by analyzing various proxies, including pollen, macrofossil, elemental, and biomarker analyses. However, as each of these proxies is known to have its own benefits and limitations, examining them in parallel allows for a deeper understanding of these paleoecological dynamics at the peatland and a systematic comparison of the power of these individual proxies. In this study, we therefore analyzed peat cores from a peatland in Germany (Beerberg, Thuringia) to (a) characterize the vegetation dynamics over the course of the peatland development during the late Holocene and (b) evaluate to what extent the inclusion of multiple proxies, specifically pollen, plant macrofossils, and biomarkers, contributes to a deeper understanding of those dynamics and interaction among factors. We found that, despite a major shift in the regional forest composition from primarily beech to spruce as well as many indicators of human impact in the region, the local plant population in the Beerberg area remained stable over time following the initial phase of peatland development up until the last couple of centuries. Therefore, little variation could be derived from the paleobotanical data alone. The combination of pollen and macrofossil analyses with the elemental and biomarker analyses enabled further understanding of the site development as these proxies added valuable additional information, including the occurrence of climatic variations, such as the Little Ice Age, and more recent disturbances, such as drainage.

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Thomas, Carrie L. / Jansen, Boris / Czerwiński, Sambor / et al: Comparison of paleobotanical and biomarker records of mountain peatland and forest ecosystem dynamics over the last 2600 years in central Germany. 2023. Copernicus Publications.

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