We present a high-resolution and independently dated multiproxy lake sediment record from the paleolake at Les Échets in southeastern France that displays synchronous changes in independent limnic and terrestrial ecosystem proxies, in concert with millennial-scale climate oscillations during the last glacial period. Distinct lake-level fluctuations, low lake organic productivity, and open, treeless vegetation indicate cold and dry conditions in response to Heinrich events. Alternating phases of higher and low lake organic productivity, stratified surface waters and long-lasting lake ice cover, decreased or increased catchment erosion, and tree-dominated or herb-dominated vegetation resemble Dansgaard-Oeschger interstadialstadial variability. Transitions between different ecological states occurred in as little as 40–230 yr and seem to have been controlled by the position of the Polar Front. Ecosystem response after 30 ka suggests that local climate conditions became more important. Our results demonstrate that all parts of the terrestrial system responded to the abrupt and dramatic climatic changes associated with Dansgaard-Oeschger and Heinrich events, and that regional factors modulated ecosystem response.

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