Abstract

Permafrost evolution in postglacial marine silts near the tree line was reconstructed using landform analysis, 14C dating, and palynostratigraphic analysis of peat sections. In the forest–tundra, below the tree line, four sites in peat plateaus have a stratigraphic sequence indicating an alluvial plain environment from 6000 to 4800 BP followed by a wetland supporting trees and shrubs with deep snow accumulation and without permafrost. Ground heave occurred between 1900 and 1200 BP as peat plateaus and palsas were formed. In the shrub–tundra, above the tree line, three permafrost sites with buried peat beds suggest that climatic conditions were cold enough for discontinuous permafrost in the surrounding landscape starting from land emergence, about 5800 BP; however, fen expansion and sedge peat accumulation continued over unfrozen ground until 2300, 1560, and 1400 BP. At these dates, the sites were buried with silt, probably as a result of mass wasting on nearby permafrost mounds and then permafrost aggraded under the sites. Generally, the palynostratigraphic data reflect a marked cooling of climate starting by 3200–2700 BP and culminating in a major period of permafrost aggradation between 1900 and 1200 BP. Permafrost degradation has been dominant since then despite other possible cold intervals. Nowadays, the permafrost in marine silts is twice as thick and three times more widespread in the shrub–tundra than in the forest–tundra.

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