Welcome to the Landcover 6k Subgroup 9 blog/web page!   This welcome post is ‘sticky’ – please scroll down for more recent posts.

This group is intended to be open and to support communication, especially between isolated researchers (who might be the only ones in their group or department interested in estimating pollen productivity or in different methods of quantitative reconstruction of past environments from pollen records), so I hope we can use the comments section to posts as one means of doing that.

I’ve put the information about the group and its goals into an ‘About’ page, and added some other pages for the main areas of activity outlined in the planning document – suggestions and contributions welcomed!  If you’d like to be added to the email list for the Landcover 6k Subgroup 9, which will be used for occasional emails about workshops and conferences of particular interest to group members and similar, please email m.j.bunting@hull.ac.uk.  For more information about the whole PAGES Landcover6k project, please go to its homepage here

Doesn’t time fly…

Year three of the LandCover6k project has begun, and I’m sure we’ve all been beavering away at our own research (and the rest of our job roles), but the sub-group Daisy pollen_tangledwinghas not been very active.  I would love to change that this year!  Please let me know if you have any ideas, suggestions or requests for things that can go up on this blog, or that the sub-group might do in the next ten or eleven months, which would be useful or interesting to you.

(Pollen pic borrowed from the excellent Contemplative Mammoth blog)


Landcover 6k Annual Workshop 2016

Hello everyone,

The landcover6k project had its annual workshop in a converted church in Utrecht, The Netherlands, 14-16 June 2016, partly supported by the Copernicus Institute for Sustainable Development.  The meeting had two goals:

  1. to update each other on the work of the subgroups
  2. to plan for the future.

As with any meeting organised by Marie-Jose Gaillard, the atmosphere was friendly and collaborative, and the project as a whole seems to be making good progress. It was intersting to hear a variety of aspects of the work of different sub-groups, and of course to realise how important the work of OUR subgroup is for the overall project – Pollen Productivity estimates are problematic in many ways, and perhaps are less glamorous and exciting than giant databases, but they really matter.

In this post I’m just going to quickly outline a few points relevant to SubGroup9 activities – your input and comments welcome!

Initial estimates from new environments: using what you have

Starting in a new geographic area or environment is always a challenge, especially where vegetation survey is challenging due to remoteness, taxonomic challenges or simple lack of resources.  However, an initial estimate of pollen productivity can be obtained using ANY systematically-collected dataset of paired vegetation survey and pollen sample data – the south Swedish values used for much of the modelling and first reconstruction work in Northern Europe (Sugita et al. 1999) were derived from surface samples from single woodland inventory quadrats, not from any form of “walking in circles” surveying, and although further work has refined these values, they have not been shown to be seriously misleading.  Working with subgroup7 (Methodology focused on the tropics), which has a particular interest in “quick and dirty” methods, a small project is planned for this summer around this approach – email me if you want to play!

Subgroup9 publications

When the subgroup was launched, we suggested that writing a collective review paper (updating Broström et al. 2008 and Mazier et al. 2012 and extending them beyond Europe) would be an appropriate product.  However, I now know of at least three individuals/groups working on global or regional review papers, two of whom at least are ECRs, and feel that overlapping with such efforts is not a good use of our time (unless they specifically want input from us!).  Therefore we discussed what form a product of this subgroup should take, and have identified two paper ideas we want to explore further:

“Dirty Linen” Paper [credit to Martin Theuerkauf for the working name]

We all know that there are many, many problems with current estimates of pollen productivity and that we don’t have really robust methods in place – there are many unknowns which hinder our ability to confidently measure a consistent value.  That’s not to say the effort is pointless, of course, but we felt that this would be a good time to write a critical review of the limitations of the current methods and to lay out a research programme to address some of them.  This would build on the paper by Jackson & Lyford (1999) which some of us agreed has been overlooked and neglected by our field.

Simulations to explore the effects of landscape structure and survey detail on RPP estimates

Anyone who works with pollen data for a time develops what some call “gut instinct” and others call “informed opinions” about how the system works!  Discussing these different ideas is one of the fun things that happens at workshops – for example, we had a lively discussion about WHICH model of aerial transport is most appropriate, and about how the heterogenity of the regional vegetation (i.e. within 50-100km radius of the sample point) might affect the RSAP and pollen productivity values.  Some of these things could be explored using the HUMPOL simulation software, and it was suggested that a group of people could get together to design the experiments and to share the work of running them, speeding up the process.

(SELF-PROMOTION: The latest version of HUMPOL allows a wider choice of dispersal and deposition models, and we hope by the end of the summer to have tested the option to use Lagrangian as well as Gaussian models – see e.g. Theuerkauf et al. 2016)

Subgroup resources/activities

This website

It was agreed that we’d add a page to this website to contain short summaries on the different methods of quantitative reconstruction of aspects of past vegetation from pollen records, such as biomisation, pseudobiomisation, the MAT, the LRA, the MSA, or MARCO POLO (presented as a post, accepted for publication), which would mostly consist of annotated bibliographies.  A blank space is now there… any volunteers to start filling it up??

Getting together

I think we should try and have a subgroup 9 focused meeting next year, 2017 – this might be joint with subgroup 8 (methodologies for the tropics) or alone.  We’ll need to apply for INQUA funding in January, so I’ll be looking for ideas before then!


There was some discussion about the potential importance of water-borne taphonomies for pollen records from some sites, especially in semi-arid and tropical environments (Subgroup 7 in particular were interested in this), and I had some great discussions especially with Professors Xu and Li from Hebei Normal University – we’ll be putting together a grant to work on this further

Apologies for the relatively late nature of this update – but BREXIT and other conferences rather occupied my time).    At least we now have growing lists of PP-estimating projects “in progress”, so things are happening!


Broström, A., Nielsen, A.B., Gaillard, M.-J., Hjelle, K., Mazier, M., Binney, H., Bunting, J., Fyfe, R., Meltsov, V., Poska, A., Räsänen, S., Soepboer, W., von Steding, H., Suutari, H. and Sugita, S. (2008: DOI 10.1007/s00334-008-0148-8) Pollen productivity estimates of key European plant taxa for quantitative reconstruction of past vegetation: a review. Vegetation History and Archaeobotany. 17(5) 461-478

Jackson, S.T., & M.E. Lyford.  1999.  Pollen dispersal models in Quaternary plant ecology: assumptions, parameters, and prescriptions.  Botanical Review 65(1): 39-75.

Mazier, F., Gaillard, M-J., Kunes, P., Sugita, S., Trondman, A.-K., Broström, A., 2012a. Testing the effect of site selection and parameter setting on REVEALS-model estimates of plant abundance using the Czech Quaternary Palynological Database. Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology 187, 38-49

Sugita, S., Gaillard, M.-J., Broström, A., 1999. Landscape openness and pollen records: a simulation approach. The Holocene 9, 409-421.

Theuerkauf, M., Couwenberg, J., Kuparinen, A., Liebscher, V. 2016. A matter of dispersal: REVEALSinR introduces state-of-the-art dispersal models to quantitative vegetation reconstruction Vegetation History and Archaeobotany, 1-13




Opportunities for learning this summer

Summer is coming, pollen counts are rising (itch itch itch sneeze), and the conference season will soon be fully underway.  In this post I want to mention a few opportunities which might be of particular interest to members of Landcover6k SubGroup9 – I’m sure to be missing some, so do let me know by email or in the comments so I can add information to the site.

Two meetings with registration open until 15th May:

  • the Landcover6k General Meeting 2016, which is in Utrecht between 14th and 16th June – more information here.
  • the Landcover6k POLQUANT course, in Moulis in France August 28th-September 2nd – you can find more information at the web page here.POLQUANT

Booking has closed for the EPD workshop at the start of June, listed here; anyone attending want to write a summary to share with those of us who can’t make it?

Booking isn’t open yet for the next Quaternary Research Association Short Discussion Meeting, which is on 6th-7th September in Cardiff, UK – the topic is “New approaches, new insights; how developments over the last 30 years have changed our understanding of the palaeoecology of the British Isles during the Holocene”.  Find out a bit more here.  I’ll update as I find out more – I’m going to be leading a half day workshop on quantitative reconstruction of vegetation from pollen records before the meeting on the 5th of September, including the Multiple Scenario Approach, so will tell you more as details are finalised.

Other meetings and opportunities?  Let me know!




PPEs from the KwaZulu-Natal Drakenberg, South Africa

Another ongoing project in a sunny fieldwork area!

Trevor Hill from KwaZulu Natal University in South Africa sent me a poster produced by his MSc student, Tristan Duthie – now uploaded on the progress reports page here – which was presented at the SASQUA (Southern African Society for Quaternary Research) conference in Cape Town in 2015.  Tristan has estimated Relative Pollen Productivity values for some of the main communities in the Drakenberg – she is now doing a PhD at Leipzig on modern urban biodiversity, and her PPE paper is under review…


Progress on the use of RPPEs in the NE Iberian Peninsula: the Iberian range and the Pyrenees

By Graciela Gil-Romera from Paleo-IPE (CSIC) in Zaragoza (Spain)
graciela.gil@ipe.csic.es | gil.romera@gmail.com|@gilromera |www.tiny.cc/gilromera


The research cluster of Quaternary Palaeoenvironments has been focused on the pollen-vegetation quantitative relationships over the last few years as the team consider this is a milestone to improve the palaeoecological reconstructions made in the Iberian Peninsula. On the one hand we have the need to understand the forest history since the Lateglacial to the present in order to define the threshold vegetation responses to abrupt climate changes, resilience patterns and communities interactions across space and time. On the other hand, we want to analyze vegetation dynamics in the light of disturbance ecology as fire or anthropogenically induced changes.

In order to do so, some years ago we contacted several members of the POLLANDCAL community and other colleagues interested on the land cover reconstructions at longer time scales. Some names are Maire-Jose Gaillard, Anna Broström, Jane Bunting, Florence Mazier, Shinya Sugita, etc. Along with these colleagues we initiated a pilot study at el Cañizar de Villarquemado, in the Iberian range (Fig 1) where the team had previously recorded a 135Kyr BP core where geochemistry, pollen, ostracods, sedimentology, and other proxies, are still under study (Moreno et al, 2012, Aranbarri et al., 2014, Garcia-Prieto Fronce, 2015).



We have been analyzing since then pollen productivity estimates (PPEs) for some key Mediterranean taxa in the continental area of El Cañizar, that we hope to publish relatively soon. Besides we have expanded our estimates to the Pyrenean range, where we are collaborating with Florence Mazier and some colleagues from Toulouse to get a more comprehensive view of PPEs from that area. We have been following the Crackles project approach for the vegetation surveys as this is a widely recognized and used methodology that has reached a great consensus and it is used by most researchers.
Aranbarri, J., González-Sampériz, P., Valero-Garcés, B., Moreno, A., Gil-Romera, G., Sevilla-Callejo, M., García-Prieto, E., Di Rita, F., Mata, M.P., Morellón, M., Magri, D., Rodríguez-Lázaro, J., Carrión, J.S., 2014. Rapid climatic changes and resilient vegetation during the Lateglacial and Holocene in a continental region of south-western Europe. Global and Planetary Change 114, 50–65.

Bunting, M.J., Farrell, M., Broström, A., Hjelle, K.L., Mazier, F., Middleton, R., Nielsen, A.B., Rushton, E., Shaw, H., Twiddle, C.L., 2013. Palynological perspectives on vegetation survey: a critical step for model-based reconstruction of Quaternary land cover. Quaternary Science Reviews 82, 41–55. doi:10.1016/j.quascirev.2013.10.006

García-Prieto Fronce, E. Dinámica peloambiental durante los últimos 135000 años en el Alto Jiloca: el registro de El Cañizar. Tesis doctoral, Departamento de Ciencias de la Tieraa. Universidad de Zaragoza.

Moreno, A., González-Sampériz, P., Morellón, M., Valero-Garcés, B.L., Fletcher, W.J., 2012. Northern Iberian abrupt climate change dynamics during the last glacial cycle: A view from lacustrine sediments. Quaternary Science Reviews, The INTegration of Ice core, Marine and TErrestrial records of the last termination (INTIMATE) 60,000 to 8000 BP 36, 139–153. doi:10.1016/j.quascirev.2010.06.031