Late quaternary environmental and cultural changes in the Wollaston Forland region, Northeast Greenland

Ole Bennike, Mikkel Sørensen, Bent Fredskild, Bjarne H. Jacobsen, Jens Böcher, Susanne L. Amsinck, Erik Jeppesen, Claus Andreasen, Hanne H. Christiansen, Ole Humlum

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter in bookResearchpeer-review

33 Citations (Scopus)


This chapter provides a review of proxy data from a variety of natural archives sampled in the Wollaston Forland region, central Northeast Greenland. The data are used to describe long-term environmental and climatic changes. The focus is on reconstructing the Holocene conditions particularly in the Zackenberg area. In addition, this chapter provides an overview of the archaeological evidence for prehistoric occupation of the region. The Zackenberg area has been covered by the Greenland Ice Sheet several times during the Quaternary. At the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM, about 22,000 years BP), temperatures were much lower than at present, and only very hardy organisms may have survived in the region, even if ice-free areas existed. Marked warming at around 11,700 years BP led to ice recession, and the Zackenberg area was deglaciated in the early Holocene, prior to 10,100 years BP. Rapid early Holocene land emergence was replaced by a slight transgression in the late Holocene. During the Holocene, summer solar insolation decreased in the north. Following deglaciation of the region, summer temperatures probably peaked in the early to mid-Holocene, as indicated by the occurrence of a southern beetle species. However, the timing for the onset of the Holocene thermal maximum is rather poorly constrained because of delayed immigration of key plant species. During the thermal maximum, the mean July temperature was at least 2-3°C higher than at present. Evidence for declining summer temperatures is seen at around 5500, 4500 and 3500 years BP. The cooling culminated during the Little Ice Age that peaked about 100-200 years ago. The first plants that immigrated to the region were herbs and mosses. The first dwarf shrubs arrived in Northeast Greenland prior to 10,400 years BP, and dwarf birch arrived around 8800 years BP. The first people arrived about 4500 years BP, but the region was depopulated several times before the last people disappeared some time after 1823 AD, perhaps as a consequence of poor hunting conditions during the peak of the Little Ice Age.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHigh-Arctic ecosystem dynamics in a changing climate
EditorsHans Meltofte, Torben R. Christensen, Bo Eberling, Mads C. Forchhammer, Morten Rasch
Number of pages35
ISBN (Print)978-0-12-373665-9
Publication statusPublished - 2008

Publication series

NameAdvances in Ecological Research
ISSN (Print)0065-2504

Programme Area

  • Programme Area 5: Nature and Climate


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