[en] vegetation model ; Monte Carlo sampling ; palaeoclimatology
[en] Atmospheric CO2 concentration has greatly fluctuated during the Quaternary. These variations have influenced the vegetation changes. The assumption that the relationship vegetation–climate sensu stricto was constant through time should be reconsidered taking into account the impact of the atmospheric CO2 content on the plants. Here we propose to use a process-based vegetation model (BIOME3) in an inverse mode to reconstruct from pollen data the most probable climate under precipitation seasonality change and under lowered CO2 concentration in the biosphere. Appropriate tools to match the model outputs with the pollen data are developed to generate a probability distribution associated with the reconstruction (Monte Carlo sampling and neural network techniques). The method is validated with modern pollen samples from Greece and Italy: it proves to be able to reconstruct modern climate with a more or less large error bar from pollen data. The error bar depends in fact on the tolerance of the vegetation to the corresponding climatic variable. The application to six pollen assemblages from Greece and Italy, representing the last glacial maximum (LGM: 18 000 14C-year B.P.), is done into three experiments: (1) modern CO2 concentration; (2) LGM CO2 concentration; (3) LGM CO2 concentration and high winter precipitation. The latter experiment is motivated by evidence of high lake-levels in Greece during the LGM which has been attributed to winter rainfall. These experiments show that winter was ca. 15–20°C colder than the present, in agreement with previous climate reconstruction. The apparent discrepancy between the high lake-levels and the steppe vegetation during the LGM, can be explained by an increase of the winter precipitation (which leads to high lake level) while the summer season is mild and dry (which affects the vegetation). The summer temperature has three stable states (−16°C, −10°C, −2°C), but the warmest one is the most probable if we take into account the lowered CO2 and the high lake-levels.