PoA35: Perspectives

December 24, 2021

The festive period blog post related to the recent volume of Palaeoecology of Africa (published entirely open access online) picks out the four Perspective articles. We included Perspective articles within the volume to place the volume in context and showcase some topical ideas, with the overall objective of stimulating further debate on past environmental change in Africa.

The opening two papers of the volume are both Perspectives. Louis Scott opens the volume with a short history of the Palaeoecology of Africa series. He sketches out the rich and varied history of the publication which, commenced in 1966 as a collection of eight reports (van Zinerden Bakker 1966), includes seven conference proceedings, and has been edited at various times by Eduard Meine van Zinerden Bakker, Joey Coetzee, Klaus Heine and currently Jürgen Runge. The second article, Lézine et al., tracks the rise and revival of the “African Pollen Database” (APD) from its formation in 1996, through to its decline in 2007, and up to its re-initiation in 2019 from which this volume of PoA has sprung. Personally, I think the huge enthusiasm shown to participate in this volume and to contributing to collaborative initiatives like the APD, demonstrate the strength of the field and can only bode well for future research.

The other two Perspective papers showcase nicely some of the motivation behind the enthusiasm for palaeoecological research. Lynne Quick focuses in on the hyper-diverse Cape Floristic Region of southern Africa and what records of past vegetation and climate change can tell us to reveal these origins and assist in the conservation and management of this ecological wonder today. The final perspective, by Lindsey Gillson, rounds off the volume by thinking more broadly about how palaeoecological research can be utilised in the development of conservation policy in Africa. She focuses particularly on how these records can provide insights into drivers of change in the past (climate, fire, and herbivory) and how this can then be used to guide conservation and enrich our understanding how the landscape we see in Africa today came to be.

To find out more download all the articles for free:

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PoA 35: Research Articles

December 15, 2021

The second in my series highlighting papers in the recent volume of Palaeoecology of Africa (published entirely open access online) focuses on the research articles. The research articles make up the ‘guts’ of the volume, comprising 10 of the 24 papers. Three of these are from western Africa (Dinies et al.; Gosling et al.; Lemonnier & Lézine), two from eastern Africa (Githumbi et al.; Kinyanjui et al.), two from central Africa (Richards; Gaillard et al.), and three from southern Africa (Chevalier et al.; Hill & Finch, Hill et al.). These research articles present new data and key insights into past environmental change in Africa, which fall into two broad categories, providing information on: (i) how we can extract information from pollen data sets, and (ii) the processes operating to drive vegetation.

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PoA 35: Data papers

December 2, 2021

The recently published volume of the Palaeoecology of Africa series contains a number of different types of papers: research articles, reviews, perspectives and data papers. One of the key reasons I was motivated to become involved in the project was to help mobilise palaeoecological data from Africa towards open access datasets (African Pollen Database, Neotoma). To hopefully get greater recognition to the great work done over the years and to help facilitate synthetic work that will provide a greater understanding of spatial variance in past climate change. Ultimately, four short data papers were included in the volume: an enhanced c. 16,000 year pollen record from the Bale Mountains in Ethiopia (Gil-Romera et al. 2021), two pollen and charcoal record from the southern Cape Coast in South Africa, c. 3200 and 650 years long respectively (du Plessis et al. 2021a; du Plessis et al. 2021b), and a c. 700 year long record from Madagascar (Razanatsoa et al. 2021). The records provide new insights in to landscape scale environmental change driven by both humans and climate. To find out more check out the open access articles and the data at:

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Mapping Ancient Africa: Kick off meeting

October 1, 2021

The first meeting of the, INQUA funded, Mapping Ancient Africa project will take place on the 14 and 15 of October 2021 with face-to-face meetings at four locations (Nairobi, Kenya; Port Elisabeth, South Africa; Potsdam, Germany; Portland, Oregon, USA) being linked up online.

For further information visit the project pages: https://ecologyofthepast.info/mapping-ancient-africa/

Palaeoecology of Africa

September 21, 2021

I am pleased to announce that the new, open access, volume of Palaeoecology of Africa (PoA) should be available to download in October. The “Quaternary Vegetation Dynamics” volume comprises 24 chapters, produced by more than 70 authors, and contains extensive review papers, personal perspectives on hot topics, as well as new research and data papers.

To find out more on the volume visit the publishers web site: PoA Vol. 35

Over the next few months I aim to blog about the various specific chapters to showcase some of the key findings. I hope that this book will provide a useful resource to all researchers working on past climate, environmental and vegetation change in Africa, and will provide a springboard for the start of the new “Mapping Ancient Africa” project that will kick off in October.

Mapping Ancient Africa

July 16, 2021


I am pleased to announce the start of a new project “Mapping Ancient Africa” funded by the International Union for Quaternary Research (INQUA) with support from the Palaeoclimate commission (PALCOM) and the Human & Biospheres commission (HABCOM). This project will bring together Quaternary scientists focused on past climates and environments with those working on human evolution and development in Africa. Through the synthesising data and linking these with modelling approaches we hope to bring together a novel group of researchers to explore the climatic and environmental backdrop to hominin development.

The project will be lead by Stefanie Kaboth-Bahr, Rahab Kinyanjui, Lynne Quick, Sarah Ivory and myself.

Further information on the project can be found on a new “sub-site” within this blog dedicated to the “Mapping Ancient Africa” project. The project is designed to connect researchers working on these topics so if you are interested to be involved please do get in contact. The first meeting will be held in October 2021 online and at four locations: Nairobi (Kenya), Port Elizabeth (South Africa), Potsdam (Germany) and Portland (Oregon, USA) – for further details click here.

Palaeoecology of Africa

April 20, 2020

I am delighted to announce that a new volume of the classic book series Palaeoecology of Africa is now under development. This new volume (hopefully number 35) will focus on “Quaternary Vegetation Dynamics” and build on recent initiatives to develop the “African Pollen Database”. The volume will be guest edited by Anne-Marie Lezine (LOCEAN), Louis Scott (University of the Free State) and myself, along side the series editor Jürgen Runge (Johann Wolfgang Goethe University). If you are interested to contribute please get in touch.


The Quaternary Vegetation Dynamics volume of the long-running Palaeoecology of Africa series  will showcase palynological work from across the African continent and surrounding regions, and place this in the context of past climatic, human and evolutionary change. We are keen to use this opportunity to catalyse the archiving of previously published and new datasets into the open access online African Pollen Database. The volume will be published entirely open access online and will contain four types of manuscript: (i) Research papers, (ii) Data papers, (iii) Review papers, and (iv) Perspectives.

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Using the Past to Inform a Sustainable Future: Palaeoecological Insights from East Africa

February 4, 2020


Esther Githumbi

New book chapter by African Pollen Database data steward Esther Githumbi and collegues:

Githumbi, E., Marchant, R. & Olago, D. (2020) Using the Past to Inform a Sustainable Future: Palaeoecological Insights from East Africa. Africa and the Sustainable Development Goals (ed. by M. Ramutsindela & D. Mickler), pp. 187-195. Springer Nature, Switzerland AG. DOI: 10.1007/978-3-030-14857-7_18

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