On the scaling and standardization of charcoal data in paleofire reconstructions

January 9, 2021

Open access:

McMichael, C.N., Heijink, B.M., Bush, M.B. & Gosling, W.D. (2020) On the scaling and standardization of charcoal data in paleofire reconstructions. Frontiers of Biogeography. https://doi.org/10.21425/F5FBG49431

New and repeating tipping points: The interplay of fire, climate change, and deforestation in Neotropical ecosystems

September 30, 2020

Bush MB. 2020. New and repeating tipping points: The interplay of fire, climate change, and deforestation in Neotropical ecosystems. Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden 105:393-404. DOI: 10.3417/2020565

Human occupation and ecosystem change on Upolu (Samoa) during the Holocene

January 21, 2020

Now online open access:

Gosling, W.D., Sear, D.A., Hassall, J.D., Langdon, P.G., Bönnen, M.N.T., Driessen, T.D., van Kemenade, Z.R., Noort, K., Leng, M.J., Croudace, I.W., Bourne, A.J. & McMichael, C.N.H. (2020) Human occupation and ecosystem change on Upolu (Samoa) during the Holocene. Journal of Biogeography DOI: 10.1111/jbi.13783

Note: Co-authors Bönnen, Driessen, van Kemenade, and Noort all contributed to this work as part of the research projects related to their MSc or BSc degrees within the Department of Ecosystem & Landscape Dynamics at the University of Amsterdam.

UvA-TREUB Symposium Advances in Tropical Research

October 18, 2019

Date: 18th of  October 2019
Location: Institute for Biodiversity & Ecosystem Dynamics, Science Park Amsterdam
Organisers: Dr. Carina Hoorn and Dr. Crystal McMichael (University of Amsterdam)


14:00-14:10 WELCOME & OPENING

  • 14:10-14:30: Characterization of phytoliths in mid-elevation Andean forests Seringe Huisman (University of Amsterdam/Treub grant awardee)
  • 14:30 –14:50: Extinction-driven changes in frugivore communities on tropical islands: worldwide and in Mauritius Julia Heinen (University of Copenhagen, Denmark)
  • 14:50 – 15:10: Are the current Amazonian fires unprecedented? Crystal N.H. McMichael (University of Amsterdam)
  • 15:10 – 15:30: On the relationship between tiger conservation and water management Jasper Griffioen, Hanne Berghuis & Ewa van Kooten (Utrecht University)

15:30-16:00: TEA

  • 16:00 – 16:45: Assembling the diverse rain forest flora of SE Asia by evaluating the fossil and molecular record in relation to plate tectonics Robert J. Morley (Palynova, and Southeast Asia Research Group, Royal Holloway University of London, UK)

17:00: DRINKS

For full details visit the Treub web site here.

Palynologische Kring: Fire meeting

July 4, 2019

Date: Thursday 4th July 2019

Location: Institute for Biodiversity & Ecosystem Dynamics (University of Amsterdam)


  • 13:00   Algemene leden vergadering/Annual meeting
  • 14:00   Objective quantification of microscopic charred particles in pollen slide Frederike Verbruggen (BIAX)
  • 14.30   On the interpretation of ancient charcoal Crystal McMichael (University of Amsterdam)
  • 15:00   Introduction to laboratory activities William Gosling (University of Amsterdam)


  • Chemical analysis of charcoal fragments Marco Raczka and William Gosling (both University of Amsterdam)
  • Charcoal in archaeology Erica van Hees (Leiden University)


Four centuries of vegetation change in the mid-elevation Andean forests of Ecuador

May 29, 2019

Huisman, S.N.*, Bush, M.B. & McMichael, C.N.H. (2019) Four centuries of vegetation change in the mid-elevation Andean forests of Ecuador. Vegetation History and Archaeobotany. DOI: 10.1007/s00334-019-00715-8

* Seringe conducted the research presented in this paper during her MSc Biological Sciences at the University of Amsterdam.

Human impact on forest cover in Europe during the last glaciation

February 27, 2019

This is the first is a series of blog posts based on papers discussed at our “Amsterdam Palaeoecology Club” meetings. The APC meetings are organized to promote palaeoecological discussion and to help the scientific development of our MSc and BSc research students. At each meeting we discuss a paper and the progress of individual projects. Short summaries of the papers and discussions are then made by the student introducing the paper. First up is MSc researcher Rianne van Duinen with her thoughts on Kaplan et al. (2016).

Monkey on a stick

Rianne on field work in Twente during the 2017 edition of the BSc Palaeoecology course at University of Amsterdam

Human impact on forest cover in Europe during the last glaciation
By Rianne van Duinen
(currently studying for MSc Biological Sciences, Ecology & Evolution track at the University of Amsterdam)

We discussed the paper Large scale anthropogenic reduction of forest cover in Last Glacial Maximum Europe by Kaplan et al. (2016) which was found by the group to be super interesting and it incited a lot of discussion. The paper was mostly concerned with the anthropogenic influences and past vegetation of Europe. The main conclusion was that humans had a very big impact on forests during the last glacial period through the use of fire. The authors suggest that human actions are the explaining factor for the low amount of forests cover suggested by pollen records during the last glacial maximum (c. 21,000 years ago). The suggestion from Kaplan et al. that human modification of forest cover through fire during the glacial links with a recent study from Sevink et al. (2018) that suggests, based on pollen and charcoal data from the Netherlands, that human use of fire altered forest cover into the Holocene. In our discussion it was also noted that animals (mega-herbivores) were not really taken into account or discussed, even though animals probably had a big impact on the vegetation (e.g. see Bakker et al., 2016). Furthermore, another discussion point was the charcoal records that were used in the Kaplan et al. study, more specifically the number of cores. Kaplan et al. only used three cores to map out the effect of charcoal. It would be interesting to see what happens when more data from more cores is used. The Global Charcoal Database has a lot of data on European cores (c. 38% of the cores are from Europe) so there is a lot of potential for this.  All in all, the article by Kaplan et al. raised a lot of questions and opened up a nice discussion.


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Reconstructing past fire temperatures from ancient charcoal material

February 10, 2019

Gosling, W.D., Cornelissen, H. & McMichael, C.N.H. (2019) Reconstructing past fire temperatures from ancient charcoal material. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 520, 128-137. DOI: 10.1016/j.palaeo.2019.01.029

Click here for open access until 01/04/2019

Note: This article is developed directly from work conducted by Henk Cornelissen during his BSc Future Planet Studies thesis project at the Institute for Biodiversity & Ecosystem Dynamics, University of Amsterdam.

AFQUA 2018 – day 6

July 20, 2018

AFQUA: The African Quaternary environments, ecology and humans
2ndInternational Conference and Workshops
14-22 July 2018-07-15 National Museum, Nairobi, Kenya

Day 6

The final day of talks at AFQUA 2018 took a more applied approach in the first session “Applying the Quaternary: The role of the past in supporting the future”. This session focused on how we can focus Quaternary science to produce outputs that directly meet concerns and needs of society. Examples included the quantification of the fossil charcoal record to provide insights into the nature and impact of fires in the past (C. Adolf), how we can use information on past vegetation change and disturbance factors to anticipate how ecosystems on Madagascar might respond to future changes (E. Razanatsoa), and how climate histories can be extended through tree ring data (D. Colombaroli).

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