Palynological signal of the Younger Dryas in the tropical Venezuelan Andes

Valentí Rull, Nathan D. Stansell, Encarni Montoya, Maximiliano Bezada, Mark B. Abbott

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


The occurrence, or not, of the Younger Dryas cold reversal in the tropical Andes remains a controversial topic. This study reports a clear signal for this event in the Venezuelan Andes, employing high-resolution palynological analysis of a well-dated sediment core from Laguna de Los Anteojos, situated around 3900. m elevation, within grass páramo vegetation. The lake is surrounded by some Polylepis forests which are close to their upper distribution limit. The section of the core discussed here is 150-cm long and dated between about 14.68 and 9.35. cal. kyr. BP, using a polynomial age-depth model based on six AMS radiocarbon dates. Between 12.86 and 11.65. cal. kyr. BP, an abrupt shift occurred in the pollen assemblage, manifested by a decline of Podocarpus, Polylepis and Huperzia, combined with an increase in Poaceae and Asteraceae. The aquatic pteridophyte Isoëtes also decreased and disappeard, and the algae remains show their minimum values. Pollen assemblages from the Younger Dryas interval show maximum dissimilarity values compared with today's pollen assemblage, and are more similar to modern analogs from superpáramo vegetation, growing at elevations 400-500. m higher. A lowering of vegetation zones of this magnitude corresponds to a temperature decline of between 2.5 and 3.8 °C. During this colder interval lake levels may have been lower, suggesting a decrease in available moisture. The vegetation shift documented in Anteojos record between 12.86 and 11.65. cal. kyr. BP is comparable to the El Abra Stadial in the Colombian Andes but it differs in magnitude. The Anteojos shift is better dated and coincides with the Younger Dryas chron as recorded in the Cariaco Basin sea surface temperature reconstructions and records of continental runoff, as well as in the oxygen isotope measurements from the Greenland ice cores. When compared to other proxies of quasi-immediate response to climate, the time lag for the response of vegetation to climate is found to be negligible at a centennial scale. The Polylepis pollen curve is especially noteworthy, as it reproduces the overall pollen trends and matches well with paleoclimatic reconstructions based on other proxies. Hence, Polylepis might be used as a reliable paleoclimatic indicator in lake sediments close to its uppermost distribution boundary.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3045-3056
Number of pages12
JournalQuaternary Science Reviews
Issue number23-24
StatePublished - Nov 2010
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work has been supported by grants from the US National Science Foundation ( ATM-9809472 ) to M. Abbott, and the Spanish Ministry of Education and Science ( CGL2006-00974 ) to V. Rull. The authors acknowledge the comments of two anonymous referees, especially one of them, whose throrough and detailed review contributed to clarify significant points of the manuscript thus reinforcing our conclusions.

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Palynological signal of the Younger Dryas in the tropical Venezuelan Andes'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this