Project proposal details

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Project title
European tree migrations during the Holocene – how, when, why?
Contact name
Colin Prentice
Project based at
Silwood Park (Imperial)
Project description
There is a fundamental, unanswered question about how fast tree taxa can “migrate” in response to changes in climate. One view, based on (limited!) recent observations, is that trees will be among the slowest groups of organisms to track climate change. This view was expressed in the Working Group 2 report of the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report. It is quite inconsistent with evidence from pollen analysis showing range expansions by as much as 1 km/year in response to the rapid global transition out of the last glacial period and into the Holocene, ca 11,650 years ago. But we still do not know why some tree taxa’s distributions moved much more slowly, or followed quite different spatial patterns. Were some taxa limited by their dispersal ability? Or were they simply responding to different aspects of climate change? The second explanation is generally accepted for eastern North America – but the jury is still out for Europe. This project will exploit recent huge advances in the availability of pollen data from Europe, combined with new computational techniques for palaeoclimate reconstruction, to answer the long-standing question of “climate versus dispersal” as the main control of Holocene changes in the composition of Europe’s forests.
Date uploaded

Project proposal limitations

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Project length limitations
9 months
Suitable for
Computational Methods in Ecology and Evolution (MRes), Ecosystem and Environmental Change MRes