Holocene vegetation

Key sites

aith meadows



Salix herbacea

Lateglacial vegetation

The vegetation record for the period between ice retreat (~14 ka) and the start of the Holocene (10 ka) has been investigated in only a few sites on Shetland. The classic three-part sediment sequence for the Lateglacial in Scotland is

  1. barren muds,

  2. organic-rich silts with pollen of warmth-loving and shade-intolerant plants, and

  3. organic poor silts and sands with pollen of tundra plants and peat

The sediment sequence reflects the climate shifts at the end of the last glaciation, with rapid warming of the Windermere Interstadial terminated by the sharp cold phase of the Loch Lomond Stadial and finally by the onset of Holocene warmth.

The most varied Lateglacial pollen flora occurs at Grunna Water, with 45 species represented. Dwarf willow, grasses and sedges dominate but birch was established early also, although perhaps not including the tree form. Birch and Rumex almost disappear during the Loch Lomond Stadial, organic contents drop and open and disturbed ground species increase, including Salix herbacea. Other Lateglacial sequences occur at Clettnadal, West Burra and at Tresta.