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Late Pleistocene-Holocene environmental change in Serra do Espinhaço Meridional (Minas Gerais State, Brazil) reconstructed using a multi-proxy characterization of peat cores from mountain tropical mires

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Author(s):
Ingrid Horak Terra
Total Authors: 1
Document type: Doctoral Thesis
Press: Piracicaba.
Institution: Universidade de São Paulo (USP). Escola Superior de Agricultura Luiz de Queiroz (ESALA/BC)
Defense date:
Examining board members:
Pablo Vidal Torrado; Marcia Aguiar de Barros; Peter Buurman; Antonio Marttinez Cortizas; Marco Madella
Advisor: Pablo Vidal Torrado
Abstract

The peatlands are ecosystems extremely sensitive to changes in hydrology, and are considered as faithful \"natural archives of ecological memory\". In the Serra do Espinhaço Meridional, Minas Gerais State, Brazil, mountain peatlands has been studied by soil scientists, but until now multi-proxy studies are almost absent. The location of these peatlands is ideal because they are in an area influenced by the activity of the South America Monsoon Systems (SAMS), which controls the amount and distribution of annual rainfall. The aim of this work was to reconstruct the environmental changes occurred throughout the late Pleistocene and Holocene, both at the local and regional scale by using a multi-proxy approach (stratigraphy, physical properties, 14C and OSL datings, pollen and geochemistry). However, determining of the processes involved in the genesis and evolution of peatlands soils was also necessary step. The physico-chemical properties and elemental composition of five peat cores (PdF-I, PdF-II, SJC, PI and SV) from four selected mires (Pau de Fruta, São João da Chapada, Pinheiros and Sempre Viva) seem to have responded to four main processes: relative accumulation of organic and mineral matter, linked to the evolution of the catchment soils (local erosion); deposition of dust from distant/regional sources; preservation of plant remains; and long and short-term peat decomposition. The combination of proxies of PdF-I core defined six main phases of change during the Holocene: (I) 10-7.4 cal kyr BP, wet and cold climate and soil instability in the mire catchment; (II) 7.4-4.2 cal kyr BP, wet and warm with catchment soils stability and enhanced deposition of regional dusts; (III) 4.2-2.2 cal kyr BP, dry and warm and a reactivation of soil erosion in the catchment; (IV) 2.2-1.2 cal kyr BP, dry and punctuated cooling, with enhanced deposition of regional dusts; (V) 1.2 cal kyr-400 cal yr BP, sub-humid climatic and the lowest inputs of local and regional dust and the largest accumulation of peat in the mire; and (VI) <400 cal yr BP, sub-humid conditions but both local and regional erosion largely increased. For the late Pleistocene, a combination of proxies applied to the PI core also defined six main phases: (I) 60-39.2 cal kyr BP, from sub-humid to dry amid colder conditions than today, and high soil instability in the mire catchment; (II) 39.2-27.8 cal kyr BP, dry and warm with cooling events under still high local erosion rates; (III) 27.8-16.4 cal kyr BP, wet and very cold with a decreased in soil erosion in the catchment; (IV) 16.4-6.6 cal kyr BP, very wet and very cold conditions with low intensity of local erosion; (V) 6.6-3.3 cal kyr BP, very dry and warm with increasing rates of local erosion; and (VI) <3.3 cal kyr BP, from dry and warm to sub-humid climate, with local erosion trend similar to the previous period. The climate is seen as the most important driving force of environmental change, but human activities are likely to have been at least partially responsible for the significant changes recorded over the past 400 years. Given the value as environmental archives, mires from Serra do Espinhaço Meridional should be fully protected. (AU)