Quaternary environmental changes at Starunia palaeontological site and vicinity (Carpathian region, Ukraine) based on palaeobotanical studies

Renata Stachowicz-Rybka, Wojciech Granoszewski, Anna Hrynowiecka-Czmielewska


The unique nature of the Starunia palaeontological site, where nearly perfectly preserved large mammals were discovered at the beginning of the 20th century, and also the incompletely researched history of the Pleistocene vegetation of the region, provided the necessary stimulus to undertake further complex palaeobotanical investigations. The Pleistocene and Holocene sediments filling the Velyky Lukavets River valley are the object of this type of investigation. Both the succession of vegetation and radiocarbon dating indicate that the formation of biogenic sediments began in the Weichselian Middle Pleniglacial, in the Moershoofd interstadial, and lasted through the Hengelo/Denekamp Interstadial Complex and the Late Glacial and Holocene. Palaeobotanical investigations show the Middle Pleniglacial to have been characterized by an open, forestless landscape. Grassland steppe communities dominated with extremely high proportions of Poaceae, as well as Artemisia, Chenopodiaceae, and a number of herbaceous plant taxa. More moist places were occupied by dwarf shrub tundra with Betula nana, Alnus viridis, and Cyperaceae. Small changes in the character of the vegetation resulting from climatic oscillations made their mark through a slight increase in the proportion of tree-birches, fir and pine. The record of Late Weichselian plant succession in the Velyky Lukavets River valley also documents the dominance of open habitats with a preponderance of steppe and steppe-tundra communities and a dry, continental climate. Only with the beginning of the Holocene did an improvement in climate conditions lead to the rapid expansion of forest communities with a dominance of pine accompanied by fir, larch, and trees, which are more demanding in terms of temperature, e.g. elm, oak, lime, hornbeam and hazel.

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