Holocene

periglacial

rivers

rock slope failure

soils

vegetation

The gorge in Glen Tromie

Postglacial landforms and processes

 

Over the last 10,000 years of the Holocene, the Cairngorms have experienced a climatic regime of high and occasionally intense precipitation, with heavy snowfall, frequent and penetrating frost, and frequent high wind speeds. On the Cairngorm summits this regime can be described as Arctic-Alpine but at lower elevations it is more typical of other ‘temperate’ mountain environments.

 

The continuance of frost heaving and sorting at higher elevations has led to the formation of a range of small patterns on the ground surface. Frost shattering of rock is widespread, as shown by the accumulation of scree at the foot of cliffs. Wind is a powerful agent of transport, entraining grit and sand and sweeping it towards sheltered sites.

 

The tempo of change is less than that during the glacial phases but the potential for abrupt and catastrophic change remains. Slopes may fail, avalanches are a constant winter hazard and large scale flooding has been recorded on several occasions in the recent historic past.

 

The Holocene has seen the sequential development of the vegetation, with the influence of man becoming progressively greater after 4000 years ago. Soil formation is seldom obvious but soil characteristics are a major control on both the natural vegetation and the modern and past land use.