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.

Job: MacGillavry Fellowship

December 20, 2018

The Faculty of Science of the University of Amsterdam has just announced the third round of MacGillavry Fellowships. These are tenure track positions (6 years) for talented female researchers. Applicants can apply in six different fields including “Biodiversity & Earth Sciences” this field encompasses all activity within the Institute for Biodiversity & Ecosystem Dynamics.

Email me for informal discussions of applications related to Ecosystem & Landscape Dynamics.

To find out more and how to apply click here.

Job: Theoretical Ecology

November 29, 2018

The Institute for Biodiversity & Ecosystem Dynamics (University of Amsterdam) is currently looking for an theoretical ecologist. The position will be based in the Department of Theoretical & Computational Ecology and will be at the Assistant or Associate Professor level.

Closing date: 3 January 2019
For further details on the position and how to apply click here.

Advances in tropical research symposium

November 2, 2018

Treub Maatschappij – Society for the Advancement of Research in the Tropics &
The Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics (IBED), University of Amsterdam…
…invites you to join this symposium.

Date: 15 November 2018
Location: Amsterdam Science Park


13.30-13.45: Welcome

13.45-14.15: Dr Robert-Jan Wille
History Department, Utrecht University
Dutch colonial science in the age of Melchior Treub: evolution, development and symbiosis as political and scientific themes in the late nineteenth century

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Columbus’ environmental impact in the New World: Land use change in the Yaque River valley, Dominican Republic

August 29, 2018

Open access:

Hooghiemstra, H., Olijhoek, T., Hoogland, M., Prins, M., van Geel, B., Donders, T., Gosling, W.D. & Hofman, C. (2018) Columbus’ environmental impact in the New World: Land use change in the Yaque River valley, Dominican Republic. The Holocene. Online DOI: 10.1177/0959683618788732

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