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Climate drying and associated forest decline in the lowlands of northern Guatemala during the late Holocene

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 January 2017

Andreas D. Mueller*
Affiliation:
Geological Institute, Department of Earth Science, ETH Zurich, Switzerland
Gerald A. Islebe
Affiliation:
El Colegio de la Frontera Sur, Unidad Chetumal Herbario, AP 424, Quintana Roo, Mexico
Michael B. Hillesheim
Affiliation:
Department of Geological Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville, 32611, USA Land Use and Environmental Change Institute (LUECI), University of Florida, Gainesville, 32611, USA
Dustin A. Grzesik
Affiliation:
Department of Geological Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville, 32611, USA Land Use and Environmental Change Institute (LUECI), University of Florida, Gainesville, 32611, USA
Flavio S. Anselmetti
Affiliation:
Eawag, Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology, Duebendorf, Switzerland
Daniel Ariztegui
Affiliation:
Section of Earth Sciences, University of Geneva, Geneva, Switzerland
Mark Brenner
Affiliation:
Department of Geological Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville, 32611, USA Land Use and Environmental Change Institute (LUECI), University of Florida, Gainesville, 32611, USA
Jason H. Curtis
Affiliation:
Department of Geological Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville, 32611, USA Land Use and Environmental Change Institute (LUECI), University of Florida, Gainesville, 32611, USA
David A. Hodell
Affiliation:
Department of Geological Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville, 32611, USA Land Use and Environmental Change Institute (LUECI), University of Florida, Gainesville, 32611, USA Department of Earth Sciences, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, CB2 3EQ, UK
Kathryn A. Venz
Affiliation:
Department of Geological Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville, 32611, USA Land Use and Environmental Change Institute (LUECI), University of Florida, Gainesville, 32611, USA
*
Corresponding author. Geological Institute, ETH Zurich Universitaetstrasse 16CH-8092 Zürich, Switzerland. Email Address:andreas.mueller@erdw.ethzch

Abstract

Palynological studies document forest disappearance during the late Holocene in the tropical Maya lowlands of northern Guatemala. The question remains as to whether this vegetation change was driven exclusively by anthropogenic deforestation, as previously suggested, or whether it was partly attributable to climate changes. We report multiple palaeoclimate and palaeoenvironment proxies (pollen, geochemical, sedimentological) from sediment cores collected in Lake Petén Itzá, northern Guatemala. Our data indicate that the earliest phase of late Holocene tropical forest reduction in this area started at ∼ 4500 cal yr BP, simultaneous with the onset of a circum-Caribbean drying trend that lasted for ∼ 1500 yr. This forest decline preceded the appearance of anthropogenically associated Zea mays pollen. We conclude that vegetation changes in Petén during the period from ∼ 4500 to ∼ 3000 cal yr BP were largely a consequence of dry climate conditions. Furthermore, palaeoclimate data from low latitudes in North Africa point to teleconnective linkages of this drying trend on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.

Type
Articles
Copyright
University of Washington

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