Original Article

Vegetation History and Archaeobotany

, Volume 17, Issue 3, pp 251-267

First online:

Prehistoric Pinus woodland dynamics in an upland landscape in northern Scotland: the roles of climate change and human impact

  • Richard TippingAffiliated withSchool of Biological and Environmental Sciences, Stirling University Email author 
  • , Patrick AshmoreAffiliated withHistoric Scotland
  • , Althea L. DaviesAffiliated withSchool of Biological and Environmental Sciences, Stirling University
  • , B. Andrew HaggartAffiliated withNatural Resources Institute, University of Greenwich at Medway
  • , Andrew MoirAffiliated withDepartment of Geography and Earth Sciences, Brunel University
  • , Anthony NewtonAffiliated withSchool of GeoSciences, The Grant Institute, University of Edinburgh
  • , Robert SandsAffiliated withSchool of Archaeology, Newman Building, University College Dublin
  • , Theo SkinnerAffiliated withNational Museums Scotland
  • , Eileen TisdallAffiliated withSchool of Biological and Environmental Sciences, Stirling University

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Pollen, microscopic charcoal, palaeohydrological and dendrochronological analyses are applied to a radiocarbon and tephrochronologically dated mid Holocene (ca. 8500–3000 cal b.p.) peat sequence with abundant fossil Pinus (pine) wood. The Pinus populations on peat fluctuated considerably over the period in question. Colonisation by Pinus from ca. 7900–7600 cal b.p. appears to have had no specific environmental trigger; it was probably determined by the rate of migration from particular populations. The second phase, at ca. 5000–4400 cal b.p., was facilitated by anthropogenic interference that reduced competition from other trees. The pollen record shows two Pinus declines. The first at ca. 6200–5500 cal b.p. was caused by a series of rapid and frequent climatic shifts. The second, the so-called pine decline, was very gradual (ca. 4200–3300 cal b.p.) at Loch Farlary and may not have been related to climate change as is often supposed. Low intensity but sustained grazing pressures were more important. Throughout the mid Holocene, the frequency and intensity of burning in these open PinusCalluna woods were probably highly sensitive to hydrological (climatic) change. Axe marks on several trees are related to the mid to late Bronze Age, i.e., long after the trees had died.


Pinus Pollen analysis Climate change Human activity Scotland