Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa

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

  • Andreas D. Mueller (a1), Gerald A. Islebe (a2), Michael B. Hillesheim (a3) (a4), Dustin A. Grzesik (a3) (a4), Flavio S. Anselmetti (a5), Daniel Ariztegui (a6), Mark Brenner (a3) (a4), Jason H. Curtis (a3) (a4), David A. Hodell (a3) (a4) (a7) and Kathryn A. Venz (a3) (a4)...

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.

Corresponding author
Corresponding author. Geological Institute, ETH Zurich Universitaetstrasse 16CH-8092 Zürich, Switzerland. Email Address: andreas.mueller@erdw.ethzch
Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

F.S. Anselmetti , D. Ariztegui , M. Brenner , D.A. Hodell , and M.F. Rosenmeier Quantification of soil erosion rates related to ancient Maya deforestation. Geology 35, (2007). 915918.

F.S Anselmetti , D. Ariztegui , D.A. Hodell , M.B. Hillesheim , M. Brenner , A. Gilli , J.A. McKenzie , and A.D. Mueller Late Quaternary climate-induced lake level variations in Lake Petén Itzá, Guatemala, inferred from seismic stratigraphic analysis. Palaeogeography Palaeoclimatology Palaeoecology 230, (2006). 5269.

P.A. Baker , G.O. Seltzer , S.C. Fritz , R.B. Dunbar , M.J. Grove , P.M. Tapia , S.L. Cross , H.D. Rowe , and J.P. Broda The history of the South American tropical precipitations for the past 25,000 years. Science 291, (2001). 640643.

M.W. Binford Paleolimnology of the Petén Lake District, Guatemala. Hydrobiologia 103, (1983). 199203.

M. Brenner , M.F. Rosenmeier , D.A. Hodell , and J.H. Curtis Paleolimnology of the Maya lowlands: long-term perspectives on interactions among climate, environment, and humans. Ancient Mesoamerica 13, (2002). 141157.

J.C.H. Chiang , and M. Bitz Influence of high latitude ice on the position of the marine intertropical convergence zone. Climate Dynamics (2005).

J.H. Curtis , M. Brenner , D.A. Hodell , R.A. Balser , G.A. Islebe , and H. Hooghiemstra A multi-proxy study of Holocene environmental change in the Maya lowlands of Petén, Guatemala. Journal of Paleolimnology 19, (1998). 139159.

J.H. Curtis , M. Brenner , and D.A. Hodell Climate change in Lake Valencia Basin, Venezuela, ∼ 12,600 yr BP to present. The Holocene 9, (1999). 609619.

E.S. Deevey , D.S. Rice , P.M. Rice , H.H. Vaughan , M. Brenner , and M.S. Flannery Mayan urbanism: impact on a tropical karst environment. Science 206, (1979). 298306.

F. Gasse Hydrological changes in the African tropics since the Last Glacial Maximum. Quaternary Science Reviews 19, (2000). 189211.

A. Giannini , Y. Kushnir , and M.A. Cane Interdecadal changes in the ENSO teleconnection to the Caribbean Region and the North Atlantic Oscillation. Journal of Climate 14, (2001). 28672879.

S. Hastenrath Interannual variability and the annual cycle: mechanisms of circulation and climate in the tropical Atlantic sector. Monthly Weather Review 112, (1984). 10971107.

G.H. Haug , K.A. Hughen , D.M. Sigman , L.C. Peterson , and U. Roehl Southward migration of the intertropical convergence zone through the Holocene. Science 293, (2001). 13041308.

M.B. Hillesheim , D.A. Hodell , B.W. Leyden , M. Brenner , J.H. Curtis , F.S. Anselmetti , D. Ariztegui , D.G. Buck , T.P. Guilderson , M.F. Rosenmeier , D.W. Schnurrenberger , (2005b). Climate change in lowland Central America during the late deglacial and early Holocene. Journal of Quaternary Science 20, (4), 363376.

D.A. Hodell , J.H. Curtis , G.A. Jones , A. Higuera-Gundy , M. Brenner , M.W. Binford , and K.T. Dorsey Reconstruction of Caribbean climate change over the past 10,500 years. Nature 352, (1991). 790793.

D.A. Hodell , F. Anselmetti , D. Ariztegui , M. Brenner , M.B. Bush , A. Correa-Metrio , J.H. Curtis , J. Escobar , A. Gilli , D.A. Grzesik , T.P. Guilderson , S. Kutterolf , and A.D. Mueller An 85-ka record of climate change in lowland Central America. Quaternary Science Reviews 27, (2008). 11521165.

Y. Huang , F.A. Street-Perrott , S.E. Metcalfe , M. Brenner , M. Moreland , and K.H. Freeman Climate change as the dominant control on glacial–interglacial variations in C3 and C4 plant abundance. Science 293, (2001). 16471651.

G.A. Islebe , H. Hooghiemstra , M. Brenner , J.H. Curtis , and D.A. Hodell A Holocene vegetation history from lowland Guatemala. The Holocene 6, (1996). 265271.

J.G. Jones Pollen evidence for early settlement and agriculture in northern Belize. Palynology 18, (1994). 205211.

T.C. Johnson , E.T. Brown , J. McManus , S. Barry , P. Barker , and F. Gasse A high-resolution paleoclimate record spanning the past 25,000 years in southern East Africa. Science 296, (2002). 113132.

B.W. Leyden Pollen evidence for climatic variability and cultural disturbance in the Maya lowlands. Ancient Mesoamerica 13, (2002). 85101.

A.M. Mestas-Nunez , D.B. Enfield , and C. Zhang Water vapor fluxes over the Intra-Americas Sea: seasonal and interannual variability and associations with rainfall. Journal of Climate 20, 9 (2007). 19101922.

H. Neff , D.M. Pearsall , J.G. Jones , B. Arroyo , and D.E. Freidel Climate change and population history in the Pacific lowlands of southern Mesoamerica. Quaternary Research 65, (2006). 390400.

L.C. Peterson , and G.H. Haug Variability in the mean latitude of the Atlantic intertropical convergence zone as recorded by riverine input of sediments to the Cariaco Basin (Venezuela). Palaeogeography Palaeoclimatology Palaeoecology 234, (2006). 97113.

M.E.D. Pohl , K.O. Pope , J.G. Jones , J.S. Jacob , D.R. Piperno , S.D. deFrance , D.L. Lentz , J.A. Gifford , M.E. Danforth , and J.K. Josserand Early agriculture in the Maya lowlands. Latin American Antiquity 7, (1996). 355372.

M.E.D. Pohl , D.R. Piperno , K.O. Pope , and J.G. Jones Microfossil evidence for pre-Columbian maize dispersals in the neotropics from San Andrés. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 104, (2007). 68706875.

K.O. Pope , M.E.D. Pohl , J.G. Jones , D.L. Lentz , C. von Nagy , F.J. Vega , and I.R. Quitmyer Origin and environmental setting of ancient agriculture in the lowlands of Mesoamerica. Science 292, (2001). 13701373.

P.J. Reimer , M.G.L. Baillie , E. Bard , A. Bayliss , J.W. Beck , C. Bertrand , P.G. Blackwell , C.E. Buck , G. Burr , K.B. Cutler , P.E. Damon , R.L. Edwards , R.G. Fairbanks , M. Friedrich , T.P. Guilderson , K.A. Hughen , B. Kromer , F.G. McCormac , S. Manning , C. Bronk Ramsey , R.W. Reimer , S. Remmele , J.R. Southon , M. Stuiver , S. Talamo , F.W. Taylor , J. Van der Plicht , C.E. Weyhenmeyer Radiocarbon 46, (2004). 10291058.

D.S. Rice Middle preclassic Maya settlement in the central Maya lowlands. Journal of Field Archaeology 3, (1976). 425445.

J.M. Russell , M.R. Talbot , and B.J. Haskell Mid-Holocene climate change in Lake Bosumtwi, Ghana. Quaternary Research 60, (2003). 133141.

L. Stott , C. Poulsen , S. Lund , and R. Thunell Super ENSO and global climate oscillations at millennial time scales. Science 297, (2002). 222226.

A. Timmermann , U. Krebs , F. Justino , H. Goosse , and T. Ivanochko Mechanisms for millennial-scale global synchronization during the last glacial period. Paleoceanography 20, 4 (2005). PA4008

D. Wahl , R. Byrne , T. Schreiner , and R. Hansen Holocene vegetation change in the northern Peten and its implications for Maya prehistory. Quaternary Research 65, (2006). 380389.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Quaternary Research
  • ISSN: 0033-5894
  • EISSN: 1096-0287
  • URL: /core/journals/quaternary-research
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 4 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 37 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between 20th January 2017 - 16th August 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.