Organisms and environments: Frontiers in palaeoecological technique development

October 16, 2014

inquaXIX INQUA Congress
NAGOYA, JAPAN 27 July-2 August, 2015

Grass pollen from Lake Bosumwti picked for individual chemical analysis

Grass pollen from Lake Bosumwti picked for individual chemical analysis

Abstract submission is now open for the XIX International Union for Quaternary Research (INQUA) Congress. “Ecology of the past” researchers will be there and are hosting a special session, entitled Organisms and environments: Frontiers in palaeoecological technique development, at which we hope to bring together a wide range of palaeoecologists working on novel proxy development. Members of the “Ecology of the past” group will be showcasing recent findings on the environmental significance of pollen chemistry change through time; linked to the 500,000 years of solar irradiance, climate and vegetation change in tropical West Africa project (Fraser et al., 2014). Please take a look at our session and consider submitting YOUR abstract today!

For information on abstract submission click here. Closing date for abstract submission 20 December 2014.

For further information on our session click here, or “Continue reading” below…

Organisms and environments: Frontiers in palaeoecological technique development


Palaeocology is the study of past ecological assemblages, and how organisms interact with each other and their environment through time. As such it provides essential information on the maintenance of biodiversity, and the likely consequences of future environmental change on ecosystem functioning. Recent advances make a session in this area timely. We propose to highlight emerging techniques that are providing new insights into past organisms and their environments. Particular focus will be on techniques providing insight into: population dynamics (ancient DNA), ecosystem interactions (non-pollen palynomorphs), climate (leaf cell development, biomarkers), solar irradiance (organic geochemistry), and statistical methods for interrogating and integrating datasets.

Information on past ecosystem form and function has been difficult to obtain. Improving techniques for DNA extraction from fossil remains means that population dynamics can be reconstructed at the genome level for increasing numbers of animal and plant groups. While new understanding of non-pollen palynomorphs (e.g. fungal, algal and animal remains, plant tissue, charcoal) is helping to realize an independent understanding for multiple aspects of ecosystems.

The way in which organisms’ record information about the prevailing climatic conditions is also becoming better understood. Study of the physical development of leaf structure is providing new insight into changes in growth pattern related to seasonality, and organic biomarkers are providing insights into multiple aspects of past environments including temperature. Furthermore, organic geochemical technique advances based on ‘traditional’ proxies, such as pollen, shows that past ultraviolet radiation exposure/total solar irradiance flux can be reconstructed.

To ensure the robustness of the new techniques and to help knit the ever expanding multi-proxy toolbox together sophisticated numerical techniques are required. Recent advances in numerical modeling have led to the development of techniques that can work on large, overdispersed, multivariate datasets and take into account temporal and spatial autocorrelation among explanatory and response variables.

Fraser, W.T., Lomax, B.H., Jardine, P.E., Gosling, W.D. & Sephton, M.A. (2014) Pollen and spores as a passive monitor of ultraviolet radiation. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution 2, Article 12.

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