Postglacial history of alder (Alnus glutinosa (L.) Gaertn.) in the British Isles

Keith David Bennett*, H. John B. Birks

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

91 Citations (Scopus)


Data from 92 postglacial pollen sequences are used to map the spread and increase of alder (Alnus glutinosa) across the British Isles between 9000 and 5000 years ago. The spread is found to be patchy and erratic in space and time. Consideration of the habitat requirements and reproductive ecology of alder suggest that it spread within Britain and Ireland after about 10 000 yr BP, when suitable habitat for it was scarce. Alder spread across most of Britain and Ireland early in the postglacial but only increased in abundance as (i) suitable habitat became available through changing sea levels, hydroseral successions, and floodplain development, and as (ii) rare weather events produced the necessary conditions for reproduction. Alder is unique among British and Irish trees in its requirement for a suitable habitat isolated among expanses of unsuitable habitats. Because of this, maps of its postglacial population spread and increase do not show the spatial coherence of maps for other forest tree taxa.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)123-133
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Quaternary Science
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1990


  • Alnus glutinosa
  • British Isles
  • distribution change
  • pollen analysis
  • postglacial


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