Skip to main content Accessibility help

Vegetation responses to late Holocene climate changes in an Andean forest

  • Jacob D. Schiferl (a1), Mark B. Bush (a1), Miles R. Silman (a2) and Dunia H. Urrego (a3)


A paleoecological record from Lake Palotoa (1370 m elevation) in the Andean foothills of Peru spans the last 3800 years. Lake Palotoa lies near the modern cloud base in a location sensitive to changes in atmospheric moisture. In many areas, these forests have been destroyed, but Lake Palotoa shows no sign of human occupation today or in the past. The modern forest surrounding the lake is dominated by the Andean palm, Dictyocaryum lamarckianum, which is also the most abundant taxon in the fossil pollen record. Fossil pollen data show the vegetation assemblages have not experienced strong compositional changes in the late Holocene. Global-scale climatic events such as the Medieval Climate Anomaly (MCA) and the Little Ice Age (LIA) are identified within the record, though the vegetation responses are subtle. Hedyosmum and Sloanea pollen percentages increase near the onset of the MCA and may reflect decreased seasonality. The LIA coincides with increased Hedyosmum pollen percentages, and increases in Clethra and Begonia, two elements that tend to occupy forests now found at higher elevations. Our findings demonstrate the stability of montane forest systems to natural Holocene climate change.


Corresponding author

*Corresponding author at: Department of Biological Sciences, Florida Institute of Technology, Melbourne, Florida 32901, USA. E-mail address: (J.D. Schiferl).


Hide All
Apaéstegui, J., Cruz, F.W., Sifeddine, A., Espinoza, J.C., Guyot, J.L., Khodri, M., Strikis, N., et al. 2014. Hydroclimate variability of the South American Monsoon System during the last 1600 yr inferred from speleothem isotope records of the north-eastern Andes foothills in Peru. Climate of the Past Discussions 10, 533561.
Arens, N.C., 2001. Variation in performance of the tree fern Cyathea caracasana (Cyatheaceae) across a successional mosaic in an Andean cloud forest. American Journal of Botany 88, 545551.
Baker, P.A., Seltzer, G.O., Fritz, S.C., Dunbar, R.B., Grove, M.J., Tapia, P.M., Cross, S.L., Rowe, H.D., Broda, J.P., 2001. The history of South American tropical precipitation for the past 25,000 years. Science 291, 640643.
Binford, M.W., Kolata, A.L., Brenner, M., Janusek, J.W., Seddon, M.T., Abbott, M., Curtis, J. H., 1997. Climate variation and the rise and fall of an Andean civilization. Quaternary Research 47, 235248.
Bird, B.W., Abbott, M.B., Vuille, M., Rodbell, D.T., Stansell, N.D., Rosenmeier, M.F., 2011. A 2,300-year-long annually resolved record of the South American summer monsoon from the Peruvian Andes. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 108, 85838588.
Birks, H.J.B., Gordon, A.D., 1985. Numerical Methods in Quaternary Pollen Analysis. Academic Press, San Diego, CA.
Braun, H., Christl, M., Rahmstorf, S., Ganopolski, A., Mangini, A., Kubatzki, C., Roth, K., Kromer, B., 2005. Possible solar origin of the 1,470-year glacial climate cycle demonstrated in a coupled model. Nature 438, 208211.
Bush, M.B., 1995. Neotropical plant reproductive strategies and fossil pollen representation. American Naturalist 145, 594609.
Bush, M.B., Alfonso-Reynolds, A.M., Urrego, D.H., Valencia, B.G., Correa-Metrio, A.C., Zimmermann, M., Silman, M.R., 2015. Fire and climate: contrasting pressures on tropical Andean timberline species. Journal of Biogeography 42, 938950.
Bush, M.B., McMichael, C.N., 2016. Holocene variability of an Amazonian hyperdominant. Journal of Ecology 104, 13701378.
Bush, M.B., Silman, M.R., McMichael, C.N., Saatchi, S., 2008. Fire, climate change and biodiversity in Amazonia: a Late-Holocene perspective. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 363, 17951802.
Bush, M.B., Silman, M.R., Urrego, D.H., 2004. 48,000 years of climate and forest change in a biodiversity hot spot. Science 303, 827829.
Bush, M.B., Weng, C., 2007. Introducing a new (freeware) tool for palynology. Journal of Biogeography 34, 377380.
Clark, R.L., 1982. Point count estimation of charcoal in pollen preparations and thin sections of sediment. Pollen Spores 24, 523535.
Colinvaux, P.A., De Oliveira, P.E., Moreno, J.E., 1999. Amazon Pollen Manual and Atlas. Hardwood Academic, Amsterdam.
Diaz, H.F., Trigo, R., Hughes, M.K., Mann, M.E., Xoplaki, E., Barriopedro, D., 2011. Spatial and temporal characteristics of climate in medieval times revisited. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society 92, 14871500.
Ellison, A.M., 2004. Wetlands of Central America. Wetlands Ecology and Management 1, 355.
Faegri, K., Iversen, J., 1989. Textbook of Pollen Analysis. Wiley, Chichester, UK.
Fahey, T.J., Sherman, R.E., Tanner, E.V., 2015. Tropical montane cloud forest: environmental drivers of vegetation structure and ecosystem function. Journal of Tropical Ecology 32, 355367.
Feeley, K.J., Silman, M.R., Bush, M.B., Farfan, W., Cabrera, K.G., Malhi, Y., Meir, P., Revilla, N.S., Quisiyupanqui, M., Saatchi, S., 2011. Upslope migration of Andean trees. Journal of Biogeography 38, 783791.
Foster, P., 2001. The potential negative impacts of global climate change on tropical montane cloud forests. Earth-Science Reviews 55, 73106.
Gentry, A.H., 1988. Changes in plant community diversity and floristic composition on environmental and geographical gradients. Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden 75, 134.
Graham, N.E., Ammann, C.M., Fleitmann, D., Cobb, K.M., Luterbacher, J., 2011. Support for global climate reorganization during the Medieval Climate Anomaly. Climate Dynamics 37, 12171245.
Grimm, E.C., 1987. CONISS: a FORTRAN 77 program for stratigraphically constrained cluster analysis by the method of incremental sum of squares. Computers & Geosciences 13, 1335.
Hastenrath, S., Polzin, D., Francou, B., 2004. Circulation Variability Reflected in Ice Core and Lake Records of the Southern Tropical Andes. Climatic Change 64, 361375.
Henderson, A., 1990. Flora Neotropica, Monograph 53: Arecaceae. Part I. Introduction and the Iriarteinae. New York Botanical Garden, New York.
Hill, M.O., 1979. DECORANA: A FORTRAN Program for Detrended Correspondence Analysis and Reciprocal Averaging. Cornell University, New York.
Hodell, D.A., Brenner, M., Curtis, J.H., Guilderson, T., 2001. Solar forcing of drought frequency in the Maya lowlands. Science 291, 13671370.
Juggins, S., 2014. C2 Data Analysis. Version 1.7.6. Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom.
Kanner, L.C., Burns, S.J., Cheng, H., Edwards, R.L., Vuille, M., 2013. High-resolution variability of the South American summer monsoon over the last seven millennia: insights from a speleothem record from the central Peruvian Andes. Quaternary Science Reviews 75, 110.
Kruskal, J.B., 1964. Nonmetric multidimensional scaling: a numerical method. Psychometrika 29, 115129.
Ledru, M.P., Jomelli, V., Samaniego, P., Vuille, M., Hidalgo, S., Herrera, M., Ceron, C., 2013. The Medieval Climate Anomaly and the Little Ice Age in the eastern Ecuadorian Andes. Climate of the Past 9, 307321.
Malhi, Y., Girardin, C.A.J., Goldsmith, G.R., Doughty, C.E., Salinas, N., Metcalfe, D.B., Huasco, W.H., et al. 2017. The variation of productivity and its allocation along a tropical elevation gradient: a whole carbon budget perspective. New Phytologist 214, 10191032.
Malhi, Y., Silman, M., Salinas, N., Bush, M., Meir, P., Saatchi, S., 2010. Introduction: elevation gradients in the tropics: laboratories for ecosystem ecology and global change research. Global Change Biology 16, 31713175.
Mann, M.E., Jones, P.D., 2003. Global surface temperatures over the past two millennia. Geophysical Research Letters 30, 1820.
Mann, M.E., Zhang, Z., Rutherford, S., Bradley, R.S., Hughes, M.K., Shindell, D., Ammann, C., Faluvegi, G., Ni, F., 2009. Global signatures and dynamical origins of the Little Ice Age and Medieval Climate Anomaly. Science 326, 12561260.
McCune, B., Grace, J.B., 2002. Analysis of Ecological Communities. MjM Software Design, Gleneden Beach, OR.
Oksanen, J., Guillaume Blanchet, F., Friendly, M., Kindt, R., Legendre, P., McGlinn, D., Minchin, P.R., et al 2015. vegan: Community Ecology Package. R package version 2.2-1. R Foundation for Statistical Computing, Vienna, Austria.
Parnell, A., 2016. Bchron: Radiocarbon Dating, Age-Depth Modelling, Relative Sea Level Rate Estimation, and Non-Parametric Phase Modelling. R package version 4.2.1. R Foundation for Statistical Computing, Vienna, Austria.
Pitman, N.C., Terborgh, J.W., Silman, M.R., Núñez, V., Neill, D.A., Cerón, C.E., Palacios, W.A., Aulestia, M., 2001. Dominance and distribution of tree species in upper Amazonian terra firme forests. Ecology 82, 21012117.
Pounds, J.A., Fogden, M.P., Campbell, J.H., 1999. Biological response to climate change on a tropical mountain. Nature 398, 611615.
Rapp, J.M., Silman, M.R., 2012. Diurnal, seasonal, and altitudinal trends in microclimate across a tropical montane cloud forest. Climate Research 55, 1732.
Raspopov, O.M., Dergachev, V.A., Esper, J., Kozyreva, O.V., Frank, D., Ogurtsov, M, Kolström, T., Shao, X., 2008. The influence of the de Vries (∼200-year) solar cycle on climate variations: results from the central Asian mountains and their global link. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 259, 616.
R Development Core Team. 2015. R: A Language and Environment for Statistical Computing. R Foundation for Statistical Computing, Vienna, Austria.
Roubik, D.W., Moreno, J.E.P., 1991. Pollen and Spores of Barro Colorado Island. Monographs in Systematic Botany, 36. Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO.
Schimmelmann, A., Lange, C.B., Meggers, B.J., 2003. Palaeoclimatic and archaeological evidence for a 200-yr recurrence of floods and droughts linking California, Mesoamerica and South America over the past 2000 years. Holocene 13, 763778.
Seager, R., Burgman, R., Kushnir, Y., Clement, A., Cook, E., Naik, N., Miller, J., 2008. Tropical Pacific forcing of North American medieval megadroughts: testing the concept with an atmosphere model forced by coral‐reconstructed SSTs. Journal of Climate 21, 61756190.
Seltzer, G.O., Baker, P., Cross, S., Dunbar, R., Fritz, S., 1998. High-resolution seismic reflection profiles from Lake Titicaca, Peru-Bolivia: evidence for Holocene aridity in the tropical Andes. Geology 26, 167170.
Silman, M.R., Araujo-Murakami, A., Urrego, D.H., Bush, M.B., Pariamo, H., 2006. Estructura de las comunidades de árboles en el límite sur de la Amazonía occidental: Manu and Madidi. Ecología en Bolivia 40, 443452.
Smith, D.A., 1996. Three previously undescribed Central American species of Sloanea (Elaeocarpaceae). Novon 6, 120127.
Sonett, C., Suess, H., 1984. Correlation of bristlecone pine ring widths with atmospheric C-14 variations: a climate-sun relation. Nature 307, 141143.
Stansell, N.D., Rodbell, D.T., Abbott, M.B., Mark, B.G., 2013. Proglacial lake sediment records of Holocene climate change in the western Cordillera of Peru. Quaternary Science Reviews 70, 114.
Steinhilber, F., Abreu, J.A., Beer, J., Brunner, I., Christl, M., Fischer, H., Heikkila, U., et al. 2012. 9,400 years of cosmic radiation and solar activity from ice cores and tree rings. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 109, 59675971.
Suess, H.E, 1980. The radiocarbon record in tree rings of the last 8000 years. Radiocarbon 22, 200209.
ter Steege, H., Pitman, N.C.A., Sabatier, D., Baraloto, C., Salomão, R.P., Guevara, J.E., Phillips, O.L., et al. 2013. Hyperdominance in the Amazonian tree flora. Science 342, 1243092.
Thompson, L.G., Mosley-Thompson, E., Bolzan, J.F., Koci, B.R., 1985. A 1500-year record of tropical precipitation in ice cores from the Quelccaya Ice Cap, Peru. Science 229, 971973.
Thompson, L.G., Mosley-Thompson, E., Dansgaard, W., Grootes, P.M., 1986. The Little Ice Age as recorded in the stratigraphy of the tropical Quelccaya Ice Cap. Science 234, 361364.
Thompson, L.G., Mosley-Thompson, E., Davis, M.E., Zagorodnov, V.S., Howat, I.M., Mikhalenko, V.N., Lin, P.N., 2013. Annually resolved ice core records of tropical climate variability over the past ~1800 years. Science 340, 945950.
Todzia, C.A., 1988. Chloranthaceae: Hedyosmum . Flora Neotropica 48, 1138.
Urrego, D.A., Bush, M.B., Silman, M.R., 2010. A long history of cloud and forest migration from Lake Consuelo, Peru. Quaternary Research 73, 364373.
Urrego, D.H., Hooghiemstra, H., Rama-Corredor, O., Martrat, B., Grimalt, J.O., Thompson, L., Bush, M.B., et al. 2016. Millennial-scale vegetation changes in the tropical Andes using ecological grouping and ordination methods. Climate of the Past 12, 697711.
Urrego, D.H., Silman, M.R., Correa-Metrio, A., Bush, M.B., 2011. Pollen–vegetation relationships along steep climatic gradients in western Amazonia. Journal of Vegetation Science 22, 795806.
Venables, W.N., Ripley, B.D., 2002. Modern Applied Statistics with S 4th ed. Springer, New York.
Webster, G.L., 1995. The panorama of Neotropical cloud forests. In Churchill, S.P., Balslev, H., Forero, E., Luteyn, J.L. (Eds.), Biodiversity and Conservation of Neotropical Montane Forests. New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, NY, pp 5377.
Weng, C., Bush, M.B., Silman, M.R., 2004. An analysis of modern pollen rain on an elevational gradient in southern Peru. Journal of Tropical Ecology 20, 113124.
Woodson, R.E., Schery, R.W., Smith, C.E., 1965. Flora of Panama. Part VI. Family 113. Elaeocarpaceae. Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden 52, 487495.


Type Description Title
Supplementary materials

Schiferl et al. supplementary material
Schiferl et al. supplementary material 1

 Unknown (13.4 MB)
13.4 MB
Supplementary materials

Schiferl et al. supplementary material
Schiferl et al. supplementary material 2

 Unknown (13.4 MB)
13.4 MB
Supplementary materials

Schiferl et al. supplementary material
Schiferl et al. supplementary material 3

 Unknown (13.8 MB)
13.8 MB
Supplementary materials

Schiferl et al. supplementary material
Schiferl et al. supplementary material 4

 Unknown (3.6 MB)
3.6 MB
Supplementary materials

Schiferl et al. supplementary material
Schiferl et al. supplementary material 5

 Unknown (16.0 MB)
16.0 MB
Supplementary materials

Schiferl et al. supplementary material
Schiferl et al. supplementary material 6

 Unknown (19.2 MB)
19.2 MB
Supplementary materials

Schiferl et al. supplementary material
Schiferl et al. supplementary material 7

 PDF (320 KB)
320 KB
Supplementary materials

Schiferl et al. supplementary material
Schiferl et al. supplementary material 8

 PDF (322 KB)
322 KB
Supplementary materials

Schiferl et al. supplementary material
Schiferl et al. supplementary material 9

 PDF (378 KB)
378 KB
Supplementary materials

Schiferl et al. supplementary material
Schiferl et al. supplementary material 10

 PDF (340 KB)
340 KB
Supplementary materials

Schiferl et al. supplementary material
Schiferl et al. supplementary material 11

 PDF (100 KB)
100 KB
Supplementary materials

Schiferl et al. supplementary material
Schiferl et al. supplementary material 12

 Word (13 KB)
13 KB


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

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

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed