Human activity was a major driver of the mid-Holocene vegetation change in southern Cumbria: Implications for the elm decline in the British Isles
Journal of Quaternary Science
Wiley for Quaternary Research Association
Reason for embargo
The dramatic decline in elm (Ulmus) across a large swathe of north-west Europe in the mid-Holocene has been ascribed to a number of possible factors, including climate change, human activity and/or pathogens. A major limitation for identifying the underlying cause(s) has been the limited number of high-resolution records with robust geochronological frameworks. Here, we report a multiproxy study of an upland (Blea Tarn) and lowland (Urswick Tarn) landscape in southern Cumbria (British Isles) to reconstruct vegetation change across the elm decline in an area with a rich and well-dated archaeological record to disentangle different possible controls. Here we find a two-stage decline in Ulmus taking place between 6350–6150 and 6050–5850 cal a BP, with the second phase coinciding with an intensification of human activity. The scale of the decline and associated human impact is more abrupt in the upland landscape. We consider it likely that a combination of human impact and disease drove the Ulmus decline within southern Cumbria.
This work was funded by a studentship for MJG from the University of Exeter and Sir John Fisher Foundation. Additional funding for 14C dating was from the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society (Clare Fell Bursary to MJG), and the Australian Research Council (FL100100195).
This is the author accepted manuscript. The final version is available from Wiley via the DOI in this record.
Published online 6 September 2017