Sensing small-scale human activity in the palaeoecological record: Fine spatial resolution pollen analyses from Glen Affric, northern Scotland

Althea L. Davies*, Richard Tipping

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

This paper examines the importance of palynological site selection criteria, specifically basin size, for the detection of vegetation mosaics and small- or local-scale human activity within a spatially diverse, mosaic landscape. Using a site selection strategy which recognizes landscape patchiness, pollen analyses from three small peat basins (10-56 m diameter) in an open, exposed upland valley (>250 m OD) provide records which are sensitive to local vegetation mosaics and small-scale, localized agriculture. The results indicate c. 4000 14C years (4400 cal. years) of land use, with spatial and temporal variations in the valley. Contrasts between the sequences suggest that local pollen production remains an important component of the pollen rain deposited in small peat basins, even in open environments; this is especially true of palynological 'agricultural indicators'. By comparison, sites with regional pollen source areas underestimate the spatial diversity of the upland landscape, and are insensitive to small-scale human activity in an environment where the fragmentary distribution of soils suitable for agriculture favoured a small-scale, dispersed pattern of farming. It is therefore essential to match the spatial resolution of pollen records with the grain size or scale of variations in the environment under investigation in order to sense the scale of mosaics in vegetation and agriculture within patchy landscapes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)233-245
Number of pages13
JournalHolocene
Volume14
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2004

Keywords

  • Anthropogenic activity
  • Fine-resolution pollen analysis
  • Holocene
  • Land-use history
  • Palaeoecology
  • Pollen source area
  • Scottish Highlands
  • Spatial resolution
  • Vegetation history
  • Vegetation mosaics

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