Holocene glacial landscapes of the Balkans

Philip Hughes, James Allard, Jamie Woodward, Richard J.J. Pope

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Much of the Holocene has been marginal for glacier survival and development in the mountains of the Balkans. There is some limited evidence for the presence of glaciers in the Early Holocene in Montenegro and Greece, possibly representing recessional or stillstand moraines of retreating Pleistocene glaciers. Glaciers are likely to have completely melted by the Middle Holocene or at least were smaller than in the Late Holocene, when the clearest evidence of glacier advance is recorded. In Montenegro, the largest Late Holocene glacier advance dates from the Late Antique Little Age at c.500–600 CE. During the later Little Ice Age (LIA; 1300–1850 CE) and into the 20th century, niche glaciers were also far more numerous than at present. This is not only clear from late-lying snow today but also from the presence of prominent unvegetated moraines with limited or no soil development close to cirque backwalls in many mountain areas. In Slovenia, evidence for larger LIA glaciers is documented by historical observations, including photographs. In Montenegro and Albania, geomorphological and lichenometric evidence shows that numerous glaciers were present in the LIA. In Bulgaria, small niche glaciers still survive today and were present through the Late Holocene. In some areas, including Albania, the discovery of numerous niche glaciers is relatively new to the scientific literature whereas in other parts of the Balkans, there has been increased recognition of the importance of small glaciers for several decades.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEuropean Glacial Landscapes
Subtitle of host publicationThe Holocene
EditorsDavid Palacios, Philip Hughes, Vincent Jomelli, Luis Miguel Tanarro
Place of PublicationAmsterdam
PublisherElsevier BV
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)9780323997133
ISBN (Print)9780323997126
Publication statusPublished - 3 Nov 2023


  • Niche glacier
  • ice caves
  • Little Ice Age
  • Late Antique Little Ice Age
  • Montenegro
  • Albania
  • Greece
  • Bulgaria
  • Slovenia
  • Croatia
  • Bosnia
  • Serbia
  • Kosovo
  • North Macedonia


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