Rapid ecosystem response to abrupt climate changes during the last glacial period in western Europe, 40-16 ka

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


We present a high-resolution and independently dated multiproxy lake sediment record from the paleolake at Les Echets in southeastern France that displays synchronous changes in independent limnic and terrestrial ecosystem proxies, in concert with millennial-scale climate oscillations during the last glacial period. Distinct lake-level fluctuations, low lake organic productivity, and open, treeless vegetation indicate cold and dry conditions in response to Heinrich events. Alternating phases of higher and low lake organic productivity, stratified surface waters and long-lasting lake ice cover, decreased or increased catchment erosion, and tree-dominated or herb-dominated vegetation resemble Dansgaard-Oeschger interstadial-stadial variability. Transitions between different ecological states occurred in as little as 40-230 yr and seem to have been controlled by the position of the Polar Front. Ecosystem response after 30 ka suggests that local climate conditions became more important. Our results demonstrate that all parts of the terrestrial system responded to the abrupt and dramatic climatic changes associated with Dansgaard-Oeschger and Heinrich events, and that regional factors modulated ecosystem response.


  • Barbara Wohlfarth
  • Daniel Veres
  • Linda Ampel
  • Terri Lacourse
  • Maarten Blaauw
  • Frank Preusser
  • Valerie Andrieu-Ponel
  • Didier Keravis
  • Elisabeth Lallier-Verges
  • Svante Björck
  • Siwan M. Davies
  • Jacques-Louis de Beaulieu
  • Jan Risberg
  • Anne Hormes
  • Haino Uwe Kasper
  • Goran Possnert
  • Maurice Reille
  • Nicolas Thouveny
  • Anja Zander
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Geology


  • Dansgaard-Oeschger cycles, multiproxy records, lake sediments, paleoenvironmental reconstruction, Heinrich events
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)407-410
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2008
Publication categoryResearch