ABSTRACT

Gu, F.; Ramezani, E.; Alizadeh, K., and Behling, H., 2021. Vegetation dynamics, environmental changes, and anthropogenic impacts on the coastal Hyrcanian forests in northern Iran. Journal of Coastal Research, 37(3), 611–619. Coconut Creek (Florida), ISSN 0749-0208.

The Hyrcanian forest has been recognized as a hotspot of biodiversity and an important refugium of broad-leaved trees that survived from Quaternary ice ages. However, nowadays this coastal ecosystem has been endangered due to increased anthropogenic impacts. Multiproxy analysis, including pollen, spores, nonpollen palynomorphs, macrocharcoal, and X-ray fluorescence analysis have been applied on a sediment core from the northwestern coastal region of Iran, Zarbijar wetland to reconstruct past vegetation, regional climate dynamics, fire events, and human impacts on the coastal region of Hyrcanian forest. This study provides evidence that the anthropogenic impacts have greatly influenced the ecosystems of the coastal plain of the southern Caspian Sea during the last 600 years and demonstrate that human activities became intensified in the last 100 years. It is suggested that due to the human activities by construction, the geochemical composition of the wetland deposits was markedly artificially changed. The study also indicates that the dynamics of the Hyrcanian lowland forests and local fire frequency were mainly codominated by human impact and local climate conditions. Increased anthropogenic activities such as agriculture, construction, and human-induced fires played an important role in the decline of the Hyrcanian forest. Therefore, this study also suggests that more effort is urgently needed to protect this unique global heritage, and that not only the local government but also the international forest conservation agencies should introduce certain effective corresponding policies to prevent deforestation, control the expansion of land use by agricultural, and construction.

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