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The ‘oriental’ component of the Balkan flora: evidence of presence on the Thracian Plain during the Weichselian late-glacial

Magyari, E.M.; Chapman, J.; Gaydarska, B.; Marinova, E.; Deli, T.; Huntley, J.P.; Allen, J.R.M.; Huntley, B.


E.M. Magyari

J. Chapman

B. Gaydarska

E. Marinova

T. Deli

J.P. Huntley

B. Huntley


Aim:  To obtain palaeobotanical evidence enabling evaluation of the viability of the hypothesis that the ‘oriental’ element of the Balkan flora reached south-east Europe from Turkey prior to the Holocene, probably via the Thracian Plain during a late Quaternary glacial stage but no later than the late Weichselian. Location:  Ezero wetland, northern Thracian Plain, Bulgaria. Methods:  We undertook analyses of pollen and microspores, plant macrofossils, wood fragments and molluscs recovered from sediments deposited in the Ezero wetland during the late Weichselian and Weichselian late-glacial. Sediment chronology was determined using radiocarbon age estimates. Results:  Six metres of sediments were recovered from the basin, of which the lower 3 m, extending from c. 15,450 cal yr bp to the early Allerød, was analysed. A major hiatus occurred after c. 13,900 cal yr bp, the overlying sediments being of late Holocene age. Palaeobotanical evidence indicates predominantly open vegetation during the Weichselian late-glacial, although macrofossil remains of woody taxa demonstrate the local presence of patches of wooded steppe and gallery forest. Changes in the composition of the steppe vegetation, and in the nature of the sediments deposited in the basin, indicate changes in climatic conditions, especially in the hydrological regime and in the moisture available to vegetation. After an initially relatively moister phase, the final centuries of the late Weichselian were drier, as was a short interval that may correlate with the Older Dryas. Moister conditions characterize intervals corresponding to the Bølling and Allerød sub-units of the Weichselian late-glacial interstadial. Although the pollen evidence is thus consistent with that from previous studies of this period in south-east Europe and south-west Asia, indicating predominantly open steppe vegetation, the macrofossil evidence indicates the persistent local presence of woody taxa. The woody taxa recorded include Celtis tournefortii-type and Juniperus cf. J. excelsa, two taxa today characteristic of the wooded steppes of Anatolia and members of the ‘oriental’ element of the southern Balkan flora, as well as Rosaceae Subfams. Maloideae and Prunoideae, Alnus and Fraxinus. Main conclusions:  The late Weichselian vegetation of the northern Thracian Plain included patches of wooded steppe that supported members of the ‘oriental’ element of the modern Balkan flora. The presence of such taxa renders viable the hypothesis that they could have reached south-east Europe from Turkey via the Thracian Plain during glacial times. Such hypotheses in historical biogeography can be evaluated critically using the evidence obtained from plant macrofossil analyses in combination with that from pollen analysis.


Magyari, E., Chapman, J., Gaydarska, B., Marinova, E., Deli, T., Huntley, J., …Huntley, B. (2008). The ‘oriental’ component of the Balkan flora: evidence of presence on the Thracian Plain during the Weichselian late-glacial. Journal of Biogeography, 35(5), 865-883.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date May 1, 2008
Deposit Date Apr 3, 2012
Journal Journal of Biogeography
Print ISSN 0305-0270
Electronic ISSN 1365-2699
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 35
Issue 5
Pages 865-883
Keywords Late Glacial, pollen, Bulgaria.