Special Issue "Peatlands: Outstanding Witnesses of the Environmental Evolution of Southern Europe"

A special issue of Quaternary (ISSN 2571-550X).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 June 2019).

Special Issue Editors

Prof. Xabier Pontevedra Pombal
Website
Guest Editor
Department of Soil Science and Agricultural Chemistry, Faculty of Biology, University of Santiago de Compostela, Campus Vida, 15782 Santiago de Compostela, Spain
Interests: peatlands; wetland soils; paleoenvironmental reconstruction; environmental anthropization; climate changes
Dr. José Antonio López Sáez
Website
Guest Editor
Archaeobiology Research Group, Institute of History, CCHS, CSIC, c/ Albasanz 26-28, 28037 Madrid, Spain
Interests: palynology; environmental archaeology; climate change; palaeoecology
Prof. Eduardo García-Rodeja Gayoso
Website
Guest Editor
Department of Soil Science and Agricultural Chemistry, Faculty of Biology, University of Santiago de Compostela, Campus Vida, 15782 Santiago de Compostela, Spain
Interests: peatlands; soil chemistry; soil genesis; paleoenvironmental reconstruction

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Peatlands are ecosystems of exceptional environmental value, but because of their intrinsic biogeochemical characteristics and spatial distribution, they have emerged as frontline protagonists in understanding the environmental evolution of the planet.

The capacities associated with their development, such as their sensitivity and chronological resolution, and their biophysical components, such as organic matter, water, and vegetation, turn these ecosystems into huge stores of environmental information, which we know as natural archives.

This quality has promoted the use of peatlands in tracking the imprint left on the planet by environmental dynamics. Thus, studies based on the analysis of different abiotic and biotic records (ashes, trace elements, isotopes, pollen, testate amoebas, and organic geochemistry) have multiplied, using peatlands to identify, understand and measure aspects related to climatic evolution, the intensity of the anthropization of the natural environment, and the dynamics of plant populations or pollution. 

The production of knowledge has been so significant that now seems to be a good moment to reflect on what the main milestones that have been reached are, what the main gaps of knowledge that remain are, what the discrepancies detected in the registers or in the mechanisms that explain them are, and what the future challenges are. This need is particularly relevant in southern Europe, where the analysis of these environmental archives has been much more limited than in the northernmost regions.

Prof. Xabier Pontevedra Pombal
Dr. José Antonio López Sáez
Prof. Eduardo García-Rodeja Gayoso
Guest Editors

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Keywords

  • peatlands
  • paleoecology
  • climate change
  • knowledge frontiers

Published Papers (6 papers)

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Research

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Open AccessArticle
From Climatic to Anthropogenic Drivers: A Multi-Proxy Reconstruction of Vegetation and Peatland Development in the French Jura Mountains
Quaternary 2019, 2(4), 38; https://doi.org/10.3390/quat2040038 - 02 Dec 2019
Cited by 1
Abstract
A 4 m core was extracted from the center of a peatland located in the Drugeon valley (France). Thirteen radiocarbon dates were used to build a robust age model. Testate amoebae were used for reconstructing mire surface wetness. High-resolution pollen analysis of the [...] Read more.
A 4 m core was extracted from the center of a peatland located in the Drugeon valley (France). Thirteen radiocarbon dates were used to build a robust age model. Testate amoebae were used for reconstructing mire surface wetness. High-resolution pollen analysis of the sequence reconstructed 9 millennia of development of the peatland and its surrounding vegetation. During the early/middle Holocene (9500 to 5800 cal BP), warm conditions led to high evapotranspiration and low water levels. The vegetation history is characterized by the development of a Pinus and a mixed Quercus forest. From 5800 cal BP, testate amoebae show wetter conditions, indicating the onset of the cooler Neoglacial period. The cooling is also evidenced by the development of Abies and Fagus trees, replacing the oak forest. The first indicators of human impact appear at about 4800 cal BP, and indicators of farming activity remains very rare until ca. 2600 cal BP, at the beginning of the Iron Age. The development of the peatland responded to climatic fluctuation until 2600 cal BP, after which human impact became the main driver. The last millennium has been characterized by sudden drying and the spread of pine on the peatland. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
The Toledo Mountains: A Resilient Landscape and a Landscape for Resilience? Hazards and Strategies in a Mid-Elevation Mountain Region in Central Spain
Quaternary 2019, 2(4), 35; https://doi.org/10.3390/quat2040035 - 18 Oct 2019
Cited by 1
Abstract
The Toledo Mountains are a mid-elevation mountain range that separates the Tagus and Guadiana basins in the central area of the Iberian Peninsula. The location of these mountains allows the development of typical Mediterranean vegetation with some Atlantic influence. Consequently, typical broadleaved evergreen [...] Read more.
The Toledo Mountains are a mid-elevation mountain range that separates the Tagus and Guadiana basins in the central area of the Iberian Peninsula. The location of these mountains allows the development of typical Mediterranean vegetation with some Atlantic influence. Consequently, typical broadleaved evergreen Mediterranean vegetation currently dominates the regional landscape, with the remarkable presence of more mesophilous species in sheltered and more humid microsites such as gorges (e.g., Prunus lusitanica, Taxus baccata, Ilex aquifolium) and mires/bogs (e.g., Betula pendula susbp. fontqueri, Erica tetralix, Myrica gale). Palaeoecological studies in these mountains are essential to understand the long-term ecology and original distribution of these valuable communities and are key to assess their resilience. Understanding the hazards and opportunities faced in the past by the plant communities of the Toledo Mountains is necessary to enhance the management and protection of those species currently threatened. This study focuses on El Perro mire, a peatland on the southern Toledo Mountains (central Spain) where climatic variability has played a major role in landscape dynamics at multi-decadal to millennial timescales. Climatic events such as the 4.2 ka cal. Before Present (BP) or the Little Ice Age triggered relevant landscape changes such as the spread and latter decline of birch and hazel forests. Human communities also seemed to be affected by these events, as their resilience was apparently jeopardized by the new climatic conditions and they were forced to find new strategies to cope with the new scenarios. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Acidification Assessment after Peat Bog Drainage in the Catalan Pyrenees (NE Iberia)
Quaternary 2019, 2(3), 32; https://doi.org/10.3390/quat2030032 - 18 Sep 2019
Abstract
The Pyrenean range (NE Iberian Peninsula) has some favourable lithological and climatic conditions (iron-rich parent materials and udic moisture regimes) for the formation of acid sulfate soils (ASS) that have not been reported on from the region until now. The analyses of a [...] Read more.
The Pyrenean range (NE Iberian Peninsula) has some favourable lithological and climatic conditions (iron-rich parent materials and udic moisture regimes) for the formation of acid sulfate soils (ASS) that have not been reported on from the region until now. The analyses of a drained peat bog near València d’Àneu revealed a pH (1:2.5) of 3.7. We hypothesize that it contained sulfidic materials that were oxidized during drainage, which could have caused its acidification. The main goal of this study is to understand the characteristics and the potential acidity of these organic soils and the consequences that this could generate in the current environment. In order to do so, several profiles were described and sampled in the field for chemical and micromorphological analyses. The results show that the oxidation of the newly formed pyrite in the soil or pyrite contained in the Cambro–Ordovician parent material was responsible for the low pH and high electrical conductivity (EC). The soils still contain sulfidic materials at present, which could be oxidized in the future, with the consequent risk for water quality. The results will be useful to evaluate the risk of other peats in the Pyrenees becoming acid sulfate soils if drained. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Significance of the High Abundance of Pentacyclic Triterpenyl and Hopenyl Acetates in Sphagnum Peat Bogs from Northern Spain
Quaternary 2019, 2(3), 30; https://doi.org/10.3390/quat2030030 - 21 Aug 2019
Abstract
Global warming is expected to increase the rate of CH4 emission from acidic peatlands leading to an increased interest on its mechanisms of formation. The main routes are through the reduction of CO2 by molecular hydrogen and through the cleavage of [...] Read more.
Global warming is expected to increase the rate of CH4 emission from acidic peatlands leading to an increased interest on its mechanisms of formation. The main routes are through the reduction of CO2 by molecular hydrogen and through the cleavage of acetate. A predominance of the former, a reaction which also competes with homoacetogenesis to form acetate, may enrich the media in acetate, which could potentially be incorporated in the peat molecular markers. Acetates of triterpenoid biomarkers have been identified in peats and lake sediments and related to the input of higher plants. Nevertheless, the acetyl derivatives are found in very low amounts in fresh plants and in much lower amount than other derivatives with alcohol or ketone functional groups. The dichloromethane/methanol extracts of Asturian peat bog profiles (North Spain) were analyzed using gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS) and compound-specific-isotope-analysis (CSIA). They show abundance of acetates of compounds with oleanane, ursane, and lupane skeletons derived from higher plants and with hopane skeleton, which can be considered a characteristic of these peats. Two families of 3-oxyhopenyl acetates with -17(21)- and -22(29)- configurations were detected in the upper part of the peat profiles, having a δ13C isotopic composition enriched by 4‰ compared with that of higher plant triterpenoids, and similar to that of microorganism-derived regular hopanoids. Both the acetate and ketone derivatives with the oxygenated functionality at C-3 were generally present in a given extract and tended to accumulate at certain depth in the profiles and in specific levels. The widespread occurrence of acetyl-derivatives, their higher concentration in the deeper layers of the peat, the fact that the acetates correspond to different compound families of diverse source and the very low amount of acetates identified in Ericaceae-contributing to the peat compared to the alcohols suggest that they were formed in the peat under particularly favorable environmental conditions. We postulate that these conditions could have been the existence of a medium enriched in acetic acid produced by the dominance of hydrogenotrophic methanogenesis and/or homoacetogenesis over acetoclastic methanogenesis. This phenomenon that has been preferentially described in Sphagnum bogs at high latitudes, and in the deeper layers of peat, appears to be also present in the temperate peats of the Asturian coast. Full article
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Review

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Open AccessReview
Diatoms in Paleoenvironmental Studies of Peatlands
Quaternary 2020, 3(2), 10; https://doi.org/10.3390/quat3020010 - 01 Apr 2020
Cited by 1
Abstract
The great diversity of diatoms in aquatic ecosystems and their close relationship with water chemistry make them one of the most informative and widely used biological proxies in paleoenvironmental studies of wetlands, except for peatland ecosystems. Currently, significant controversy still exists over the [...] Read more.
The great diversity of diatoms in aquatic ecosystems and their close relationship with water chemistry make them one of the most informative and widely used biological proxies in paleoenvironmental studies of wetlands, except for peatland ecosystems. Currently, significant controversy still exists over the preservation of diatoms in peat. However, considerable evidence indicates that diatoms remain in good condition in minerotrophic peatlands, and they have been successfully used in paleoenvironmental studies in high-latitude regions and especially in Southern Europe. Full article
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Open AccessReview
The Use of Plant Macrofossils for Paleoenvironmental Reconstructions in Southern European Peatlands
Quaternary 2019, 2(4), 34; https://doi.org/10.3390/quat2040034 - 01 Oct 2019
Cited by 2
Abstract
The analysis of plant macrofossils in peatland ecosystems has been widely used for the climatic and ecological reconstruction of the Holocene in the high latitudes of the northern hemisphere. By contrast, perhaps associated with rarity of these ecosystems, this proxy has barely been [...] Read more.
The analysis of plant macrofossils in peatland ecosystems has been widely used for the climatic and ecological reconstruction of the Holocene in the high latitudes of the northern hemisphere. By contrast, perhaps associated with rarity of these ecosystems, this proxy has barely been explored for southern Europe. In this work, a compilation and review of existing knowledge on the study of plant macrofossils of peatlands in southern Europe has been carried out, both from a paleoenvironmental perspective and in terms of biodiversity dynamics. Although small in surface area, the peatlands of southern Europe stand out for their diversity (botanical, edaphogenic, morphological, etc.), which has allowed the recovery of a large number of macrofossils from both vascular plants and bryophytes. The southern zone of Europe contains refuge zones with a high plant diversity that have not suffered the intense glaciation of the northern zones, this allows a continuous record since the beginning of the Holocene and the detection of climatic events in lower latitudes, where the ice recession was earlier. Full article
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