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Abstract

Studies of past vegetation from the inner fjords of the Svalbard archipelago have not previously been reported. This study assesses the potential of sediments retrieved from two sites in Petuniabukta, Billefjorden to track vegetation response to Quaternary climate change. The first sediment profile was retrieved from periodic lake on a 4 m a.s.l. marine terrace with a basal radiocarbon dated to 5 080 ± 30 BP, the second was retrieved from a depression in wet tundra on a 24 m a.s.l. marine terrace, which upper part was dated to 9 470 ± 30 BP. The study is primarily focused on macro- and micro−fossils. Pollen grains are present in very low concentrations. Macro−fossils were represented mostly by leafs and buds of Salix species and Dryas octopetala as well as the hybrid Salix herbacea x polaris . Fossil moss remains represent an important part of arctic ecosystems. Tardigrada remains were found in the sediments in high abundance whilst eggs and exuviae of at least six species were identified. The sediments are definitely suitable for the reconstruction of past conditions. However, it is necessary to take care not to focus at single type of analysis, as pollen analysis appeared uninformative and more information was obtained from plant macro − fossils (mosses, vascular plants). Little attention has been given to Tardigrada in the past, as they were overlooked and the preservation in sediments is usually very low.
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