From new methods to new insights: Advancing palaeoecology with @PalaeoNick

September 21, 2022
WDG

During the delivery of this years BSc Palaeoeclogy course at the University of Amsterdam (UvA) I discussed with a number of students about the nature and purpose of understanding the ecology of the past. This lead me to highlighting the research of Nick Loughlin (@PalaeoNick) from his PhD at The Open University and the subsequent work that he has done. I though it might be interesting to also share this here…

Nick recovers a sediment core for his PhD project.
Nick Loughlin during his PhD field work in Ecuador

Nick’s study sought to understand better the ecological history of the biodiverse eastern Andean flank in Ecuador. To achieve this he went into the field and recovered sediments from a lake and a sedimentary section exposed by a road cutting. He analysed the sediments to reveal vegetation change (pollen analysis), fire histories (charcoal analysis), and past animals in the landscape (non-pollen palynomorphs, or NPPs). To extract extra ecological information from his samples he developed the methodological approach for examining NPPs in a tropical setting (Loughlin et al. 2018a). He then combined all the different palaeoecological approaches to reveal the drivers of vegetation change during the last glacial period (in the absence of humans; Loughlin et al. 2018b), and during the last 1000 years (when indigenous and European human populations radically altered the landscape; Loughlin et al. 2018c). The insights gained from Nicks research provided empirical evidence of how humans have been modifying this biodiversity hotspot on the timescales relevant to the lifecycles of tropical trees. These findings and ideas were collated in his PhD Thesis at The Open University which was supervised by Encarni Montoya, Angela Coe and myself (Loughlin, 2018a). Subsequently, Nick has been working to broaden the impact of his work and to communicate his findings to the broader scientific and conservation community. This has lead to two new publications focused on understanding baseline ecological function and conservation implications (Loughlin et al. 2022, Nogué et al. 2022).

Lake Huila
Evidence of past ecological change recovered from Lake Huila (Ecuador) revealed how past peoples had modified the landscape of the eastern Andean biodiversity hotspot.

The arch of research carried out by Nick, I think, really demonstrates the important of understanding the ecology of the past – without his detailed investigation of microfossils we could not have seen the impacts of indigenous communities on the past Andean landscape, or identify the consequences of the European depopulation; or been able to estimate the timescales of the ecological change!

References

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Palaeoecology course UvA 2022

September 15, 2022
WDG

The University of Amsterdam (UvA) palaeoecology course is underway. The course is part of the BSc Biology program and the “Earth & Ecology” minor of the BSc Future Planet Studies.

Week 1 (last week) we got everyone up to speed with the fundamentals of palaeoecology (including: key principles, depositional environments, dating methods) and laboratory skills (pollen, phytolith and macrofossil identification). This week (week 2) we are out and about (coring sediments, surveying vegetation and visiting the archaeology department). By the end of the week the students will (should!?) have generated sufficient data in the laboratory and field to be able to identify the location from which their mini-project “mystery slides” were taken. Next week (week 3) will be number crunching to generate the statistical support for their ideas and inferences.

Students collecting sediments using a Russian corer at Langenboom (September, 2022). These samples were recovered in collaboration with the BosGroep Zuid Nederland as part of an ongoing project to gain new insights into the nature of the past landscape in the Netherlands and aid conservation efforts.

Job: PhD Caribbean Palaeoecology

September 9, 2022
WDG

The Palaeoecology Research Group within the Department of Archaeology at the Max Planck Institute for Geoanthropology, Jena, Germany is pleased to announce a new vacancy for a doctoral student exploring human-environment interactions in the Caribbean. The position will be based in Jena, Germany for a period of 3 years with the option for extensions and supervised by Dr. Yoshi Maezumi.

The Palaeoecology Research Group analyses palaeoecological and archaeobotanical proxies from sedimentary archives, including pollen, phytoliths, charcoal and stable isotopes to examine topics including the legacy of human land-use on ecosystems, spatio-temporal patterns of natural and human-driven fire activity, and the influence of natural and human disturbance regimes on the biogeographic distribution of plants and animals in past ecosystems.

Closing date: 30 September 2022

For full details and how to apply click here.

For further information contact Dr. Yoshi Maezumi.

Incorporating a palaeo-perspective into Andean montane forest restoration

September 2, 2022
WDG

Open access:

Loughlin, N.J.D., Gosling, W.D., Duivenvoorden, J.F., Cuesta, F., Mothes, P. & Montoya, E. (2022) Incorporating a palaeo-perspective into Andean montane forest restoration. Frontiers in Conservation Science 3, 980728. DOI: 10.3389/fcosc.2022.980728

Dutch Palynologists Then and Now

May 9, 2022
WDG

I am pleased to announce the next seminar series from the Palynologische Kring “Dutch Palynologists Then and Now: A brief history or Frans Florschütz, and new research from scientists who have been working abroad”

The meeting will take place on the afternoon of the 19th May at the Institute for Biodiversity & Ecosystem Dynamics (University of Amsterdam); if you are not a member of the society and want to follow the talk online or attend in person please contact me for details. Full program below.

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A stronger role for long-term moisture change than for CO2 in determining tropical woody vegetation change

May 5, 2022
WDG

Gosling, W.D., Miller, C.S., Shanahan, T.M., Holden, P.B., Overpeck, J.T. & van Langevelde, F. (2022) A stronger role for long-term moisture change than for CO2 in determining tropical woody vegetation change. Science 376, 653-656. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.abg4618

To access this article FREE through the Science author referral service click here.

For more on the palaeoecological dataset underpinning this research check out the PhD thesis of Charlotte Miller by clicking here or here.

The origin of alkaline fen in the Mosbeek Valley in the Netherlands is due to human impact rather than a natural development

April 21, 2022
WDG

Smeenge, H., Kooijman, A., Brinkkemper, O., Mars, H.d., Mauquoy, D. & van Geel, B. (2022) The origin of alkaline fen in the Mosbeek Valley in the Netherlands is due to human impact rather than a natural development. The Holocene 09596836221088230. DOI: 10.1177/09596836221088230

Mapping Ancient Africa: Video of Seminar 5

April 12, 2022
WDG

The fifth Mapping Ancient African project took place on Monday 11 April 2022 and focused on the African Pollen Database and past vegetation change in Africa.

The seminar was delivered by Sarah Ivory (Penn State University), Rahab Kinyanjui (National Museums of Kenya), and Lynne Quick (Nelson Mandela University). The seminar covers the principles behind and the working of the African Pollen Database (why make data openly available?) and the latest advances in eastern and southern Africa.

For more about the African Pollen Database check out:

You can watch the seminar now on the Ecology of the Past YouTube channel. Seminar details can be found here.

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