Detecting climatic signals in an anthropogenically disturbed catchment : The late-Holocene record from the Petit Lac d’Annecy, French Alps
Jones, R. T.
Historical and documentary records from the Petit Lac d’Annecy, indicate that human activities have been the dominant ‘geomorphic process’ shaping the catchment during the late Holocene, with deforestation, agriculture and artificial drainage profoundly affecting both the pace and spatial distribution of soil erosion. The impact of past climatic change on the evolution of the catchment is less certain because of the lack of long-term climate records for the site. Previous attempts to use the sediment record from the lake to investigate the role past climate change may have played were hampered by the difficulty in isolating and disentangling the climatic signal preserved within the archive, because of overprinting of human activity. This is a common problem in regions with a long history of human activity in the landscape. In this study we use a range of advanced statistical techniques (including cross-correlation and cross spectral analysis) to assess the relative importance of climate in driving landscape dynamics. The statistical analysis is carried out on an updated high-resolution palaeo-environmental data set from the Petit Lac d’Annecy. The results of the statistical analysis indicate that regional climate phenomena such as the Atlantic multidecadal oscillation are partly responsible for landscape dynamics at Petit Lac d’Annecy throughout the late Holocene. We find that the Petit Lac d’Annecy catchment typically requires decades, or longer, to respond to changes in precipitation, reflecting the stochastic nature of river sediment storage and transport. The use of a 4 yr integrated lake core record effectively attenuates the ‘signal shredding’ effect of shorter-term internally generated sediment transport processes. Nonetheless, the lake record of climatically induced geormorphic process–responses is weak compared with the pervasive impact of human activities.