The Holocene vegetation cover of Britain and Ireland: overcoming problems of scale and discerning patterns of openness

Ralph M. Fyfe, Claire Twiddle, Shinya Sugita, Marie José Gaillard, Philip Barratt, Christopher J. Caseldine, John Dodson, Kevin J. Edwards, Michelle Farrell, Cynthia Froyd, Michael J. Grant, Elizabeth Huckerby, James B. Innes, Helen Shaw, Martyn Waller

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Abstract

The vegetation of Europe has undergone substantial changes during the course of the Holocene epoch, resulting from range expansion of plants following climate amelioration, competition between taxa and disturbance through anthropogenic activities. Much of the detail of this pattern is understood from decades of pollen analytical work across Europe, and this understanding has been used to address questions relating to vegetation-climate feedback, biogeography and human impact. Recent advances in modelling the relationship between pollen and vegetation now make it possible to transform pollen proportions into estimates of vegetation cover at both regional and local spatial scales, using the Landscape Reconstruction Algorithm (LRA), i.e. the REVEALS (Regional Estimates of VEgetation Abundance from Large Sites) and the LOVE (LOcal VEgetation) models. This paper presents the compilation and analysis of 73 pollen stratigraphies from the British Isles, to assess the application of the LRA and describe the pattern of landscape/woodland openness (i.e. the cover of low herb and bushy vegetation) through the Holocene. The results show that multiple small sites can be used as an effective replacement for a single large site for the reconstruction of regional vegetation cover. The REVEALS vegetation estimates imply that the British Isles had a greater degree of landscape/woodland openness at the regional scale than areas on the European mainland. There is considerable spatial bias in the British Isles dataset towards wetland areas and uplands, which may explain higher estimates of landscape openness compared with Europe. Where multiple estimates of regional vegetation are available from within the same region inter-regional differences are greater than intra-regional differences, supporting the use of the REVEALS model to the estimation of regional vegetation from pollen data.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)132-148
Number of pages16
JournalQuaternary Science Reviews
Volume73
Early online date19 Jun 2013
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2013

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Keywords

  • Pollen analysis
  • British Isles
  • Vegetation
  • Landscape openness
  • REVEALS
  • Holocene

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