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
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).
Rianne on field work in Twente during the 2017 edition of the BSc Palaeoecology course at 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.
Gosling, W.D., Cornelissen, H. & McMichael, C.N.H. (2019) Reconstructing past fire temperatures from ancient charcoal material. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology520, 128-137. DOI: 10.1016/j.palaeo.2019.01.029
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).
Yesterday (day 3) was excursion day of the AFQUA conference (photos to follow). Day 4 of the meeting was back in the National Museum Nairobi and kicked off with a session on “African archaeological landscapes”. The opening talk reviewed the career of Karl Butzer who coined the term ‘geoarchaeology’ back in the 1970’s when writing about his work integrating geological, archaeological and anthropological information (C.A. Cordova). Two talks then followed highlighting work on Lake Makagadikgadi from the perspective of archaeology and landscapes (D.S.G Thomas) and geochemical fingerprinting of stone tools to determine their source (D.J. Nash).
To take us up to lunch Boris Vanniere and Daniele Colombaroli gave a ‘double header’ plenary talk highlighting the exciting advances in the development of the Global Charcoal Database and how understanding past fire histories in Africa is key to interpreting environmental change. The after lunch session continued the palaeo-fire theme with records from Lake Botswana (C.E. Cordova), Lake Bosumtwi (W.D. Gosling – me), and Madagascar presented (A. Razafimanantsoa); as well as work on the usefulness of the morphometric’s of charcoal in determining the plant of origin (L.Bremond).
In the final session of the day we were back to “Southern Africa” as a theme. Under which banner we were “boggled” by sea-surface and sub-surface temperature reconstructions (M.A. Berke), shown how to extract climate records from Hyrax middens (B.M. Chase) and given insights into the past flora of the Cape Floristic region from fossil pollen records spanning 130,000 years (L.J. Quick).