Paleoenvironmental evolution of Picos de Europa (Spain) during marine isotopic stages 5c to 3 combining glacial reconstruction, cave sedimentology and paleontological findings

Daniel Ballesteros, Adrián Álvarez-Vena, Mael Monod-Del Dago, Laura Rodríguez-Rodríguez, Jorge Sanjurjo-Sánchez, Diego Álvarez-Lao, Carlos Pérez-Mejías, Pablo Valenzuela, Irene DeFelipe, César Laplana, Hai Cheng, Montserrat Jiménez-Sánchez

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In glaciated areas, the environmental evolution before MIS 2 is usually poorly constrained mainly due to the later glacial erosion during the global Last Glacial Maximum (LGM). However, in carbonate areas, karst caves can preserve records of pre-LGM paleoenvironment. We studied a cave (1350 m altitude) to establish the paleoenvironmental evolution of a glaciated karst area in Picos de Europa (SW Europe). For this objective, a glacial reconstruction, cave sedimentology analyses, and macro- and micromammal remains are com bined with ten U–Th, OSL and AMS 14C ages. The paleo-glacial reconstruction indicates glaciers descended down to 810–1040 m of altitude covering an area of 36.18 km2 in the surroundings of Covadonga Lakes during the glacial local maximum, with the equilibrium line altitude located at 1524 ± 36 m. The geomorphological study of the cave and the U–Th and OSL dates reveal the presence of three allochthonous alluvial sediment sequences at 132–135, 98–60 and ca. 36 ka. These last two sequences would come from the erosion of fluvioglacial sediments including teeth fragments of Pliomys coronensis (=P. lenki), an unusual species in high areas of NW Spain during the Upper Pleistocene. In addition, remains of chamois (Rupicapra pyrenaica) dated in 37–33 cal ka BP constitutes the oldest evidence of chamois above 800 m asl in the region. All the presented data indicate the development of alpine glacier-free areas covered by fluvioglacial sediments at ca. 1450 m altitude at 98–60 and 37–33 ka, corresponding to glacial retreat stages.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number106581
JournalQuaternary Science Reviews
StatePublished - Nov 15 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
GRUPIN6IDI/2018/000184 project ( FICIY, Gobierno del Principado de Asturias, Spain, and European Union ) and FUO-300-17 project ( Consorcio Interautonómico del Parque Nacional de los Picos de Europa, Spain). In addition, LRR is grant holder (Reference ACA-17-19) of the post-doctoral Clarín-COFUND Program, financed jointly by the 7 th WP of the European Union–Marie Curie Actions and Gobierno del Principado de Asturias (Spain). We thank to the grateful assistance of the National Park staff and the speleologists from Grupo Espeleológico Polifemo (Oviedo), GES Montañeiros Celtas (Vigo), Grupo de Espeleología Diañu Burlón (Corvera de Asturias), and Espéleo Club Aradelas (Vigo). We appreciate the work of Jo de Waele, Rafael López-Martínez and other reviewer.


  • Glacial reconstruction
  • Karst
  • Paleoenvironment
  • Pliomys coronensis
  • Rupicapra pyrenaica

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