Peat initiation in the Faroe Islands: climate change, pedogenesis or human impact?

Ian T. Lawson*, Mike J. Church, Kevin J. Edwards, Gordon T. Cook, Andrew J. Dugmore

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


As an isolated island group lying off the NW. European mainland which was uninhabited until the mid-first millennium AD, the Farces offer a unique opportunity to study natural processes of Holocene ecosystem development in a region where anthropogenic activity is usually a complicating factor. In this paper new radiocarbon dates and pollen-analytical data from the island of Sandoy, in the centre of the Farces archipelago, are presented. Together with existing pollen and plant macrofossil records, these data allow a reconstruction of patterns of Holocene vegetational and edaphic change. Basal peat dates indicate that large areas of blanket mire were established long before the first human settlement, demonstrating conclusively that human impact is not necessary for the development of such ecosystems. The timing of the initiation of the blanket peats varies markedly, both across the Faroes as a whole and at a landscape scale, with dates distributed evenly over 9000 years. This suggests that, in the Faroes at least, pedogenesis was more important than climatic change in determining the timing of the spread of blanket peat systems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)15-28
Number of pages14
JournalEarth and Environmental Science Transactions Of The Royal Society Of Edinburgh
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2007


  • Blanket peat
  • Holocene
  • Norse
  • Pollen
  • Radiocarbon
  • Blanket mire formation
  • Human settlement
  • Radiocarbon calibration
  • Lateral expansion
  • Landscape change
  • Western Norway
  • Early holocene
  • Vegetation
  • Sediments


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