SCIENCE CHINA Earth Sciences, Volume 62 , Issue 8 : 1316-1328(2019) https://doi.org/10.1007/s11430-018-9364-9

Changes of vegetation in southern China

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  • ReceivedMay 16, 2018
  • AcceptedApr 28, 2019
  • PublishedMay 31, 2019


In order to reveal the changes of vegetation in southern China since the Last Glacial Maximum, we have established high-resolution time scales and palynological sequences of borehole profiles by drilling cores in some weak areas of the research to restore vegetation changes over the past 20,000 years on the basis of previous work. This paper gives the vegetation zoning maps of 18, 9 and 6 ka BP respectively in southern China, and describes the distribution characteristics of plants in different zones/subzones. The results show that the vegetation zonations around 18 ka BP were significantly different from that at present. It appeared in turn with Cold-temperate coniferous forest and alpine meadow steppe zone, and Temperate mixed coniferous and broad-leaved forest zone/warm temperate deciduous broad-leaved forest zone from northwest to southeast in the west, and Temperate mixed coniferous and broad-leaved forest zone, Warm temperate deciduous broad-leaved forest zone, and Northern subtropical mixed evergreen and deciduous broad-leaved forest zone from north to south in the central and east. The vegetation distribution around 9 ka BP changed distinctively. Except that the northwest part was located in Mountain temperate mixed coniferous and broad-leaved forest zone, the vegetation in other areas occurred in turn with North subtropical mixed evergreen and deciduous broad-leaved forest subzone, Mid-subtropical typical evergreen broad-leaved forest subzone, and South subtropical monsoon evergreen broad-leaved forest subzone/Tropical seasonal rainforest and rainforest zone from north to south. There was little change in the appearance of vegetation zonations between 6 and 9 ka BP, but the northern edge of each vegetation belt moved a little northward, reflecting that the overall climate became warmer around 6 ka BP. The vegetation changes in southern China over the past 20,000 years were largely driven by environmental changes. Climate change was the main factor affecting the vegetation distribution. The impact of human activities became more and more remarkable in the later period. In the lower reaches of the Yangtze River and the delta region, sea level changes also influenced the vegetation distribution.

Funded by

the Strategic Priority Research Program of Chinese Academy of Sciences(Grant,Nos.,XDA05120100,&,XDB26000000)

and the National Natural Science Foundation of China(Grant,Nos.,41771219,41371207,&,41472010)


This work was supported by the Strategic Priority Research Program of Chinese Academy of Sciences (Grant Nos. XDA05120100 & XDB26000000), and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant Nos. 41771219, 41371207 & 41472010).


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  • Figure 1

    Geographic location map of newly added boreholes and boreholes in documents. Solid dots, newly added boreholes; hollow dots, boreholes in documents.

  • Figure 2

    Vegetation zoning map in southern China. (a) Modern vegetation zoning map; (b) 18 ka BP vegetation zoning map; (c) 9 ka BP vegetation zoning map; (d) 6 ka BP vegetation zoning map.

  • Table 1   Summary of information on newly added borehole profiles

    Drilling location


    Altitude (m)

    Thickness (cm)

    14C Age span (cal yr BP)

    Lake Wuxu






    Lake Lugu






    Lake Qinghai in Tengchong






    Lake Xingyun
























    Lake Poyang






    Lake Nanyi






    Lake Xianghu






    Lake Dongqian












    Mingai Village






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