Late-Holocene Pollen Records of Vegetational Changes in China: Climate or Human Disturbance?


Twelve C-14 dated pollen records are reviewed to reconstruct the vegetational and climatic changes in China over the last 2000 years. The interpretation of these pollen data is complicated by uncertainties about the effects of human disturbance on the vegetation, which may not be easily distinguished from the climatic signal. The data for the period 0-2000 yr B.P. suggest a continuation or intensification of the cooling trend that had already started by 4000 yr B.P., accompanied by moisture changes that seem to have varied regionally. The Little Ice Age, albeit well-documented from Chinese historical records, is poorly registered palynologically. A new pollen record from the Daiyun Mountain of subtropical southeastern China yields the most dramatic evidence of deforestation due to human disturbance occurring around 1100 yr B.P. Because of the long history of Chinese civilization, the impact of human activities should be carefully evaluated in making climatic inferences from Chinese pollen records.

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