PoA35: Perspectives

December 24, 2021
WDG

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
WDG

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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Looking back to look forward

December 9, 2021
WDG

As a Subject Editor for Plant Ecology & Diversity I would like to take a moment to highlight two recent papers published under the theme “Global Change & Vegetation”.

The first Somoldi et al. takes us back to the roots of the concept of “Potential Natural Vegetation” (PNV) cover which has long been widely used and often debated in the literature. In their research article Somoldi et al. revisit the German text of the article that originally set out this idea (Tüxen 1956) and provide (re-) translated versions of key sections. The purpose of this is, the authors argue, to get a tighter definition and encourage a more precise usage of the term to avoid miss-use and miss-interpretation of the concept. They argue that the PNV concept is still a valid one despite the increasing human modification of landscapes and environments, but that its usage should be restricted more closely to the idea as it was originally formulated by Tüxon.

The second, Huntley & Allen, use palaeoecological data to test the hypothesis related to the expansion of pine woodlands during the Holocene (last 11,700 years) in Scotland. The examination of multiple sites in the Scottish Highlands reveals a dynamic mosaic landscape, and that the trajectory of change was influenced by climate, dispersal and preceding vegetation patterns. This new understanding of trajectories of change can help to anticipate how landscapes in the Scottish Highlands might alter under ongoing climate change.

References and links to the articles are below, please check out the journal for a wide range of articles related to Evolution & Systematics, Global Change & Vegetation Dynamics, Environment & Plant Functioning, Biotic Interactions and Biogeography. We accept articles on all these themes in standard “original research” format, shorter “rapid communications”, longer “reviews” and opinion related “perspectives”. Therefore, if you have a article that fits with these themes please consider submitting to Plant Ecology & Diversity.

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PoA 35: Data papers

December 2, 2021
WDG

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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Quaternary Vegetation Dynamics

November 17, 2021
WDG

Cover of "Quaternary Vegetation Dynamics: The African Pollen Database"

I am delighted to announce the publication of the new volume in the Palaeoecology of Africa series. I had the privilege to guest edit this with Anne-Marie Lézine and Louis Scott. The final version is now available OPEN ACCESS online.

Gosling, W.D., Lézine, A.-M. & Scott, L., eds. (2021) Quaternary Vegetation Dynamics: The African Pollen Database. Series editor: Runge, J. Palaeoecology of Africa: Volume 35. CRC Press. ISBN: 9780367755089 DOI: 10.1201/9781003162766

Download supporting online material here.

Mapping Ancient Africa: Kick off meeting

October 1, 2021
WDG

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
WDG

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
WDG

INQUAlogo

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.

Sporopollenin chemistry and its durability in the geological record: an integration of extant and fossil chemical data across the seed plants

February 1, 2021
WDG

Open access:

Jardine, P.E., Hoorn, C., Beer, M.A.M., Barbolini, N., Woutersen, A., Bogota-Angel, G., Gosling, W.D., Fraser, W.T., Lomax, B.H., Huang, H., Sciumbata, M., He, H. & Dupont-Nivet, G. (2021) Sporopollenin chemistry and its durability in the geological record: an integration of extant and fossil chemical data across the seed plants. Palaeontology https://doi.org/10.1111/pala.12523

Modern pollen rain predicts shifts in plant trait composition but not plant diversity along the Andes-Amazon elevational gradient

July 24, 2020
WDG

Journal of Vegetation ScienceOnline:

van der Sande, M.T., Bush, M.B., Urrego, D.H., Silman, M., Farfan-Rios, W., García Cabrera, K., Shenkin, A., Malhi, Y., McMichael, C.H. & Gosling, W.D. (2020) Modern pollen rain predicts shifts in plant trait composition but not plant diversity along the Andes-Amazon elevational gradient. Journal of Vegetation Science DOI: 10.1111/jvs.12925.

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