Do local habitat conditions affect estimates of relative pollen productivity and source area in heathlands?

M. Jane Bunting, Michelle Farrell

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Relative Pollen Productivity is an essential parameter for quantitative reconstruction of past land cover from pollen records, but published studies have produced a range of different values for the same taxa. Heathland habitats have limited plant diversity and strong spatial patterning, therefore are useful case studies to investigate aspects of pollen dispersal and deposition, but the estimated spatial area “sensed” by pollen records in these habitats also varies widely between studies. In this study, we estimate pollen productivity from two different microhabitats in a heathland ecosystem in order to investigate the role of local environmental conditions in any observed differences. Vegetation survey was carried out using the Crackles Bequest Project method, pollen assemblages from moss samples counted using standard methods, and relative pollen productivity and estimated source area derived using Extended R-Value analysis. Analysis of the data suggests that at least two pollen source areas exist at the sites studied, reflecting scales of landscape organisation. Microhabitat does not appear to have a marked effect on estimates of Relative Pollen Productivity in this heathland system. This study confirms earlier findings that the estimates obtained for some taxa from heathlands are substantially different than those from agricultural landscapes, especially Poaceae. The findings suggest that the factors controlling Relative Pollen Productivity are still not fully understood, and that differences between locations may reflect real, habitat-led differences. Further investigation of this parameter, which is central to reconstruction of past land cover from pollen records whether overtly incorporated via an algebraic model or less explicitly present via ecological narrative, biomisation or modern analog approaches, is clearly necessary.
Original languageEnglish
Article number787345
Number of pages16
JournalFrontiers in Ecology and Evolution
Publication statusPublished - 27 Jan 2022

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This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.


  • multiple pollen source areas
  • Relative Source Area of Pollen (RSAP)
  • extended R-value (ERV) analysis
  • Scotland
  • RelativePollen Productivity (RPP)
  • heathland


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