One possibility for assessing ecosystem responses to climatic change outside the range of recent observation is to consider palaeoclimatic and palaeoecological records. The research programme proposed here is designed to promote such investigation in a poorly known high alpine mountain region in the S Carpathian Mountains (Retezat Mountain) using multiple palaeoecological techniques: pollen, plant macrofossil, diatom and geochemical analyses. We selected two lake sediment records from the high alpine zone o f the Retezat Mountain from different altitudes in order to analyse key sediment sections that show rapid environmental change during the Late Glacial and Holocene with high temporal resolution (~50 years).
The main research questions concern:
1) climate-s un-vegetation linkages during periods of rapid ecosystem reorganisation;
2) the nature and speed of vegetational dynamics in response to environmental changes such as variations in temperature, solar radiation and moisture availability;
3) the chronology and structure of the Holocene tree line oscillations.
A special objective of the research programme is to combine palaeoecology with palaeognetics. A new technique developed for the aDNA analysis of fossil pollen grains from Quaternary sediments will be app lied on the lower elevation alpine lake sediment core from the Retezat Mountain and on a well-documented volcanic lake sediment core from southern Italy. The ancient DNA study will be used to describe the transitions of the genetic composition of forest trees. This will be then compared with the palaeobotanical record and conclusions will be made with regard to the impacts of rapid climate changes on the tree populations as well as on the alpine herbaceous plant communities.
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