Abstract

High-resolution environmental reconstruction for Central European terrestrial settings is commonly based on sediment records that provide the pollen spectra used for reconstruction of vegetation development. Alternatively, complementary algal, insect, or zooplankton assemblages and/or carbonate 18O isotope profiles are investigated. In this study, vegetation development and inferred climate evolution were documented on a decadal to centennial scale by analysis of land-plant cuticular lipids accumulated in lake sediments. Wax lipids derived from land-plant leaves and blades are source diagnostic and highly resistant to degradation. Their aerodynamic properties favor short-distance eolian transport, but they are less affected by possible long-distance transportation that complicates pollen analysis. The late glacial to Holocene sedimentary record of Lake Steisslingen, southwestern Germany, was investigated by palynological and geochemical means. Tundra-type pioneer vegetation consisting predominantly of grasses and herbs is dominated by nC31-alkanes, whereas pioneer birch forest yields preferentially nC27-alkanes. Establishment of a pine assemblage is recognizable by elevated nC29- and nC31-leaf-wax alkanes, and the diversification of deciduous forests in the Holocene is marked by nC29 dominance. Lipid geochemistry and palynology resolve decadal excursions such as the mid–Younger Dryas event. Centennial climate trends with pronounced and rapid changes at the Oldest Dryas–Bølling, Allerød–Younger Dryas, and Younger Dryas–pre- Boreal transitions are consistently reflected by molecular and palynological proxy data. The demonstrated suitability of an independent molecular proxy in paleoenvironmental studies provides new perspectives in high-resolution climate reconstruction.

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