Multiproxy study of anthropogenic and climatic changes in the last two millennia from a small mire in central Poland
The Żabieniec kettle-hole is the first peatland in central Poland analysed quantitatively with four biotic proxies (plant macrofossils, pollen, testate amoebae and chironomids) in order to reconstruct past environmental change. Palaeoecological data were supported by historical and archaeological records. We focused on autogenic vegetation change and human impact in relation to climatic effects. The aims of our study were: (a) to describe the development history of the mire during the last 2000 years, (b) to date and reconstruct the anthropogenic land-use changes, and (c) to discuss a possible climatic signal in the peat archive. The combination of proxies revealed dramatic shifts that took place in the peatland since the Roman Period. Żabieniec was a very wet telmatic habitat until ca AD 600. Then the water table declined and the site transformed into a Sphagnum-dominated mire. This dry shift took place mainly during the Early Medieval Period. Human impact was gradually increasing and it was particularly emphasized by deforestation since AD 1250 (beginning of the Late Medieval Period). Consequently, surface run-off and aeolian transport from the exposed soils caused the eutrophication of the mire. Furthermore, chironomids and testate amoebae reveal the beginning of a wet shift ca AD 1350. Openness considerably increased in the Late Medieval and the Modern Periods. The highest water table during the last 1000 years was recorded between AD 1500 and 1800. This wet event is connected with deforestation but it could be also associated with the Little Ice Age. Our study shows plant succession in the Żabieniec peatland, which can be explained with the recent landscape transformation. However, such changes are also possibly linked with the major climatic episodes during the last two millennia, such as the Medieval Warm Period and the Little Ice Age.