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Svante Björck

Svante Björck

Professor emeritus

Svante Björck

Subantarctic peatlands and their potential as palaeoenvironmental and palaeoclimatic archives


  • Nathalie Van der Putten
  • Dmitri Mauquoy
  • Cyriel Verbruggen
  • Svante Björck

Summary, in English

Subantarctic islands are located within the Antarctic Circumpolar Current and the southern westerly

wind belt, the latter called Southern Westerlies, making them unique terrestrial archives to investigate

past changes in oceanic and atmospheric circulation patterns in the southern mid-latitudes. The islands

are characterised by a treeless, phanerogam-poor flora in which bryophytes are of major importance.

Several peat-based Holocene palaeoenvironmental and palaeoclimatic studies have recently been published

for South Georgia and Ile de la Possession (Iles Crozet). A range of techniques have been used in

these studies, mainly plant macrofossil analysis, but also analyses of diatoms, pollen and non-pollen

microfossils, geochemical and geomagnetic measurements. The records are chronologically constrained

by radiocarbon dating. This paper brings together these data in order to give an overview of the

Subantarctic peat-based palaeoclimatic records. A new plant macrofossil record for the island of South

Georgia is added. Evidence for millennial scale Holocene climate variability was found for both islands of

which the most striking one occurred in the late Holocene. However, within the uncertainty of the age/

depth models, the timing for this climate shift to wetter and/or colder conditions on South Georgia and

windier/wetter conditions on Ile de la Possession is different for both islands. Ile de la Possession (Iles

Crozet) seems to follow the Northern Hemisphere climate evolution as the event was dated to

w2800 cal BP, a well-known climate event present in many peat-based records in north-western Europe.

In contrast, the South Georgian late Holocene climate records reveal a shift around w2200e2000 cal BP


  • Quaternary Sciences
  • MERGE: ModElling the Regional and Global Earth system
  • BECC: Biodiversity and Ecosystem services in a Changing Climate

Publishing year







Quaternary International



Document type

Journal article


Pergamon Press Ltd.


  • Geology




  • ISSN: 1873-4553