Katerina Lukanina (Екатерина Луканина)

Holocene dynamic of the East European forest-steppe: climate, human and fire impact

Forest-steppe ecotone is a transition zone between temperate woodland and grassland biomes and represents a macro-mosaic continuum of forest and steppe islands (Walter and Breckle 1994). As ecotone zone, the forest- steppe is characterized by a high biodiversity due to the co-occurrence of woodland and grassland species in heterogeneous landscapes. The occurrence chernozems - the most fertile cropland – and, in contrast to the steppe zone, rare droughts provide the basis for agriculture development in forest-steppe zone. This is the main reason for transforming of chernozem areas into arable land especially to the west of the Urals (Boonman and Mikhalev 2005). Based on satellite images, the remaining woodland cover in the Mid-Russian Upland is estimated to amount between 9% to 30% (Bartalev et al. 2011).
The modern climate change induces increase in drought and fire frequencies in arid regions leading to decreases in harvest yields, and therefore affecting the social, economic and political life of millions of people (IPCC 2014). Studies on natural variability and resilience of affected ecosystems are highly requested for development of reliable management strategies for the near future. The opportunity to understand ecosystem reactions on climatic changes provide studies of the late Quaternary vegetation history. However, just a few low-resolution pollen data are available for the East European forest-steppe zone (e.g. Lang 1994, Novenko et al. 2014, 2016, Shumilovskikh et al. 2018). This is far from sufficient to understand the past dynamics of this huge and economically important ecotone. In order to gain deeper insights in the characteristics of the distribution of forest and steppe in Europe and its response on climate changes, human impact and fire regimes, detailed studies on long-term dynamics are indispensable prerequisites.
The main goal of the project is to reconstruct dynamics of the East European forest-steppe ecotone in space and time in terms of establishment of the forest composition and change of the ecotone border through the Holocene under global climatic changes, human impact, pastoral pressure and fire.