The Slovenia Times

Study traces climate change in Slovenia for 11,700 years

Environment & Nature
Ice Cave near the Viševnik mountain pasture in NW Slovenia. Photo: Miha Staut

Slovenian scientists have published a study on climate change in Slovenia in the past 11,700 years in what is the most comprehensive overview of climate change in this part of the world so far. They hope it will help understand how ecosystems and societies can adapt to climate change.

Involving researchers from several institutions, the study has found that climate in present-day Slovenia has undergone significant fluctuations, which affected the size of glaciers, lake water surface elevation, frequency and volume of floods and changes in vegetation.

The Research Centre of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts (ZRC SAZU), one of the institutions involved, noted the exceptional diversity of climate in Slovenia despite the country's small size.

The climatic conditions in Slovenia range from the Mediterranean climate in the southwest and the Alpine climate in the north and northwest to the moderate continental climate in the central and eastern parts of the country.

This diversity results in high natural and cultural diversity, while at the same time posing new challenges to science and technological development as individual and specific landscapes are adapting to global climate and social changes.

Expected to help address these challenges is the study, as part of which researchers collected and analysed data on climate change in Slovenia throughout the Holocene, the period that began after the end of the Last Glacial Period, 11,700 years ago.

Important insights, but further research required

The study provides insight into the manner the natural systems and human communities have adapted to a changing climate over millennia, and how quickly this process took place.

Matej Lipar of the Anton Melik Geographical Institute of the ZRC SAZU noted that "understanding climate change in the Holocene ... is key for all of us, as this will help understand how ecosystems and societies can adapt to climate change".

As part of the study, the researchers took a closer look at the "natural climate archives", which include sedimentary rock strata, tree rings, stalactites and stalagmites, and pollen and spores of extinct and existing plants.

The study pays special attention to the frozen part of the Earth's surface, including glaciers, snow, ice in caves and other parts of the cryosphere environment.

Jure Tičar, an expert in this field who comes from the same institute as Lipar, noted that changes in this part of the Earth's surface, such as the melting of glaciers and shrinking of the snow cover, directly reflect climate change.

These are an important indicator of global warming trends, and at the same time, these major changes also result in changes in trends in river discharges and the abundance of sources.

"These findings are key to the health and natural balance of ecosystems, the supply of quality drinking water, the incidence and severity of natural disasters, the use of water in agriculture or electricity supply," Tičar added.

Apart from the ZRC SAZU, the study also involved the Jožef Stefan Institute, the Ljubljana Faculty of Natural Sciences and Engineering, and the Forestry Institute, and is based on the results of programmes and projects financed by the Research and Innovation Agency for several decades.

The authors note that the extensive review of climate change also shows that the current knowledge about the Holocene climate in Slovenian regions is only scratching the surface.

They say that many questions about extraordinary climatic events and their impact on the environment in Slovenia are yet to be answered, so further basic research is required.


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