Preprints
https://doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-2024-1523
https://doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-2024-1523
27 May 2024
 | 27 May 2024
Status: this preprint is open for discussion.

European forest cover during the Holocene reconstructed from pollen records

Luke Fionn Sweeney, Sandy P. Harrison, and Marc Vander Linden

Abstract. Changes in tree cover influence many aspects of the Earth System. Recent regional changes in tree cover, as documented by remote-sensed observations, are insufficient to capture the response to large climate changes or to differentiate the impacts of human activities from natural drivers. Pollen records provide an opportunity to examine the causes of changes in tree cover in response to large climate changes in the past and during periods when human influence was less important than today. Here we reconstruct changes in tree cover in Europe through the Holocene using fossil pollen records, using the modelled relationship between observed modern tree cover and modern pollen samples. At a pan-European scale, tree cover is low at the beginning of the Holocene but increases rapidly during the early Holocene and is maximal at ca. 6,500 cal. BP, after which tree cover declines to present-day levels. The rapidity of the post-glacial increase in tree cover and the timing and length of maximum tree cover varies regionally, reflecting differences in climate trajectories during the early and mid-Holocene. The nature of the subsequent reduction in tree cover also varies, which may be due to differences in climate but may also reflect different degrees of human influence. The reconstructed patterns of change in tree cover are similar to those shown by previous reconstructions, but our approach is more robust and less data-demanding than previously applied methods and therefore provides a useful approach to reconstructing tree cover in regions where data limitations preclude the use of alternative methods.

Publisher's note: Copernicus Publications remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims made in the text, published maps, institutional affiliations, or any other geographical representation in this preprint. The responsibility to include appropriate place names lies with the authors.
Luke Fionn Sweeney, Sandy P. Harrison, and Marc Vander Linden

Status: open (until 11 Jul 2024)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on egusphere-2024-1523', Thomas Giesecke, 07 Jun 2024 reply
Luke Fionn Sweeney, Sandy P. Harrison, and Marc Vander Linden

Data sets

European forest cover during the Holocene reconstructed from pollen records: Species classification schema, updates to SMPDSv1 and site level reconstructions L. Sweeney and S. P. Harrison https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.11220915

Model code and software

European forest cover during the Holocene reconstructed from pollen records: R code L. Sweeney https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.11220915

Luke Fionn Sweeney, Sandy P. Harrison, and Marc Vander Linden

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Short summary
Changes in tree cover across Europe during the Holocene are reconstructed from fossil pollen data using a model developed with modern observations of tree cover and modern pollen assemblages. There is a rapid increase in tree cover after the last glacial with maximum cover during the mid-Holocene and a decline thereafter; the timing of the maximum and the speed of the increase and subsequent decrease vary regionally likely reflecting differences in climate trajectories and human influence.