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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2009

Vegetation development at a mountain settlement site in the Swedish Scandes during the late Holocene: palaeoecological evidence of human-induced deforestation

Karlsson, Hanna; Shevtsova, Anna; Hornberg, Greger


A palaeoecological study was conducted close to the forest limit in the northern Scandinavian mountain range. The aim was to elucidate the degree to which human impact has affected the vegetation at Hiednikvalta, a Stallo settlement site. Stallo settlements consist of round hut foundations that have a hearth in the middle and are surrounded by a low turf wall. They were probably established by Sami people using the mountain areas for hunting and/or reindeer herding. In order to separate the effects of humans and climate on the vegetation, a reference area approach was adopted, i.e. the vegetation development at the Stallo settlement site Hiednikvalta was compared with the vegetation development in a forested reference area AvvuhatjAyenhkkAyen, at the same altitude as Hiednikvalta but with no archaeological remains of settlements. Peat stratigraphies were retrieved at the two sites and pollen analysis, loss-on-ignition (LOI), pollen accumulation rates (PAR), macrofossil analysis and Betula pollen size statistics were all examined. The results indicate that Hiednikvalta was forested with Betula trees prior to the Stallo settlement period, which occurred between the eighth and thirteenth centuries. Human activities resulted in a decrease in tree cover at the site, as found in a previous study at Adamvalta, another Stallo settlement site in the region. However, the magnitude of vegetation change, and the post-Stallo vegetation development differed between the two areas, suggesting that site-specific factors are important. The use of reference areas in palynological studies is also discussed.


Vegetation history; Stallo settlement; Human impact; Reference area approach; Betula; Pollen size statistics

Published in

Vegetation History and Archaeobotany
2009, volume: 18, number: 4, pages: 297-314

Authors' information

Karlsson, Hanna (Karlsson, Hanna)
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Forest Ecology and Management
Shevtsova, Anna
Hörnberg, Greger
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Forest Ecology and Management

Sustainable Development Goals

SDG15 Life on land

UKÄ Subject classification

Environmental Sciences related to Agriculture and Land-use

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