Early postglacial recolonisation, refugial dynamics and the origin of a major biodiversity hotspot. A case study from the Malá Fatra mountains, Western Carpathians, Slovakia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


While general trends in Central European postglacial recolonisation dynamics are relatively well known, we often lack studies on intermediate (meta-population, landscape) scales. Such studies are needed to increase our understanding of, for example, the location of refugia; emergence of endemism, rates and trajectories of postglacial migrations; and anthropogenic landscape changes. Here, we focused on the outer Western Carpathian mountain chain Malá Fatra, which is currently characterised by high biodiversity and endemism and is thus considered a likely refugium of the Last Glacial period for the temperate biota of Eastern–Central Europe. We used molluscs and vascular plants as reference taxonomic groups and supported palaeoenvironmental interpretations of their (sub)fossil assemblages using high-resolution geochemical data. Generally, postglacial biotic successions from the study region fit the standard developmental pattern well in Middle and Eastern European uplands. Nevertheless, we found important biogeographically based peculiarities. In total, more than 50 species per (sub)fossil community at the reference site Valča, including 30 woodland species and 11 Carpathian endemites, make site of the highest known Holocene mollusc species diversity in Europe. Our palaeoecological analysis of this long-term biodiversity hotspot suggests that the Western Carpathians were likely an important source of the postglacial recolonisation of Central Europe by forest biota and, at the same time, an area of refugium-based endemism.


  • Lucie Juřičková
  • Petr Pokorný
  • Jan Hošek
  • Jitka Horáčková
  • Jiří Květoň
  • Petra Zahajská
  • Anna Jansová
  • Vojen Ložek
External organisations
  • Charles University in Prague
  • Czech Geological Survey (CGS)
  • University of South Bohemia
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Geosciences, Multidisciplinary
  • Ecology


  • climatic changes, forest history, Gastropoda, Holocene, late Glacial, palaeofaunistics, plant macrofossils, pollen analysis, stable isotopes
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)583-594
Number of pages12
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2018 Apr 1
Publication categoryResearch