Macrofossil, pollen, lithostratigraphy, mineral magnetic measurements (SIRM and magnetic susceptibility), loss-on-ignition, and AMS radiocarbon dating on sediments from two former crater lakes, situated at moderate altitudes in the Gutaiului Mountains of northwest Romania, allow reconstruction of Late Quaternary climate and environment. Shrubs and herbs with steppe and montane affinities along with stands of Betula and Pinus, colonised the surroundings of the sites prior to 14 700 cal. yr BP and the inferred climatic conditions were cold and dry. The gradual transition to open Pinus-Betula forests, slightly higher lake water temperatures, and higher lake productivity, indicate more stable environmental conditions between 14 700 and 14 100 cal. yr BP. This development was interrupted by cooler and drier climatic conditions between 14 100 and 13 800 cal. yr BP, as inferred from a reduction of open forests to patches, or stands, of Pinus, Betula, Larix, Salix and Populus. The expansion of a denser boreal forest, dominated by Picea, but including Pinus, Larix, Betula, Salix, and Ulmus started at 13 800 cal. yr BP, although the forest density seems to have been reduced between 13 400 and 13 200 cal. yr BP. Air temperature and moisture availability gradually increased, but a change towards drier conditions is seen at 13 400 cal. yr BP. A distinct decrease in temperature and humidity between 12 900 and 11 500 cal. yr BP led to a return of open vegetation, with patches of Betula, Larix, Salix, Pinus and Alnus and individuals of Picea. Macrofossils and pollen of aquatic plants indicate rising lake water temperatures and increased aquatic productivity already by ca. 11 800 cal. yr BP, 300 years earlier than documented by the terrestrial plant communities. At the onset of the Holocene, 11 500 cal. yr BP, forests dominated by Betula, Pinus and Larix expanded and were followed by dense Ulmus forests with Picea, Betula and Pinus at 11 250 cal. yr BP. Larix pollen was not found, but macrofossil evidence indicates that Larix was an important forest constituent at the onset of the Holocene. Moister conditions were followed by a dry period starting about 10 600 cal. yr BP, which was more pronounced between 8600 and 8200 cal. yr BP, as inferred from aquatic macrofossils. The maximum expansion of Tilia, Quercus, Fraxinus and Acer between 10 700 and 8600 cal. yr BP may reflect a more continental climate. A drier and/or cooler climate could have been responsible for the late expansion (10 300 cal. yr BP) and late maximum (9300 cal. yr BP) of Corylus. Increased water stress, and possibly cooler conditions around 8600 cal. yr BP, may have caused a reduction of Ulmus, Tilia, Quercus and Fraxinus. After 8200 cal. yr BP moisture increased and the forests included Picea, Tilia, Quercus and Fraxinus.
2004. Vol. 19, no 8, 809-827 p.