The impact of the humans on Lake Bohinj has been catastrophic for more than 3,000 years

A group of researchers from the Faculty of Natural Sciences and Engineering of the University of Ljubljana (UL NTF), the Scientific Research Centre of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts (ZRC-SAZU), the Jožef Stefan Institute (JSI) and the CNRS and LSCE institutes from France studied 6,600 years of the impacts of climate and humans on Lake Bohinj.

Today the impact of human activity on nature is immense. It is so significant that we rarely find pristine environments on Earth. When and to what extent did this “devastating" influence of man begin? An international team of researchers (UL NTF (Prof. Andrej Šmuc, (lead author), Assoc. Prof. Matej Dolenec, (co-author), ZRC-SAZU (Dr. Maja Andrič, first author), JSI (Prof. Nives Ogrinc) and the CNRS and LSCE institutes from France) was searching for the answer to this question deep down at the bottom of Lake Bohinj in sedimentary archives that have been recording natural and anthropogenic environmental changes for more than 10,000 years.

They reconstructed the evolution of the wider surrounding area of Bohinj over the last 6,600 years on the basis of a wide range of interdisciplinary research on environmental proxies (geochemistry, sedimentology, isotopes, palynology, archaeology). The most shocking discovery was not that the impact of humans (agriculture, grazing, mining) has been significant since the Bronze Age, but that it was already catastrophic more than 3,000 years ago. Since the arrival of people, their activities have affected flora and fauna as well as erosion, soil evolution and the hydrology of the lake, thus completely changing the landscape of Bohinj.

Another interesting fact: in the past, the water did not flow into Lake Bohinj only from the direction of the Savica River (as it does today), but also from the opposite direction, from Stara Fužina. The researchers attribute this phenomenon to changes in climate and a wetter climate.

The research and the resulting article is unique in the entire Mediterranean area, since it opens up new horizons with regard to the more than 6,000-year-old fragile balance between the natural and human orders that determine the origin and existence of today's landscape. The article was published in the journal A'' and is one of the outstanding achievements.

Source: Andrič M., Sabatier P., Rapuc W., Ogrinc N., Dolenec M., Arnaud F., Grafenstein U., Šmuc A. 6600 years of human and climate impacts on lake-catchment and vegetation in the Julian Alps (Lake Bohinj, Slovenia). Quat. Sci. Rev., 227 (2020), 1–18.