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Changes in erosion patterns during the holocene in a currently treeless subalpine catchment inferred from lake sediment geochemistry (lake anterne, 2063 m a.s.l., NW french alps): The role of climate and human activities

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  • Charline Giguet-Covex
  • Fabien Arnaud
  • Jérôme Poulenard
  • Jean-Robert Disnar
  • Claire Delhon
  • Pierre Francus
  • Fernand David
  • Dirk Enters
  • Pierre-Jérôme Rey
  • Jean-Jacques Delannoy


Publication details

JournalThe Holocene
DateE-pub ahead of print - 28 Feb 2011
DatePublished (current) - Jun 2011
Issue number4
Number of pages15
Pages (from-to)651-665
Early online date28/02/11
Original languageEnglish


A high-resolution sedimentological and geochemical study was performed on a 20 m long core from the alpine Lake Anterne (2063 m a.s.l., NW French Alps) spanning the last 10 ka. Sedimentation is mainly of minerogenic origin. The organic matter quantity (TOC%) as well as its quality (hydrogen (HI) and oxygen (OI) indices) both indicate the progressive onset and subsequent stabilization of vegetation cover in the catchment from 9950 to 5550 cal. BP. During this phase, the pedogenic process of carbonate dissolution is marked by a decrease in the calcium content in the sediment record. Between 7850 and 5550 cal. BP, very low manganese concentrations suggest anoxic conditions in the bottom-water of Lake Anterne. These are caused by a relatively high organic matter (terrestrial and lacustrine) content, a low flood frequency and longer summer stratification triggered by warmer conditions. From 5550 cal. BP, a decrease in TOC, stabilization of HI and higher sedimentation rates together reflect increased erosion rates of leptosols and developed soils, probably due to a colder and wetter climate. Then, three periods of important soil destabilization are marked by an increased frequency and thickness of flood deposits during the Bronze Age and by increases in topsoil erosion relative to leptosols (HI increases) during the late Iron Age/Roman period and the Medieval periods. These periods are also characterized by higher sedimentation rates. According to palynological data, human impact (deforestation and/or pasturing activity) probably triggered these periods of increased soil erosion.

    Research areas

  • climate change, erosion, human impact, organic and mineral geochemistry, soils

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