Vegetation History and Archaeobotany

, Volume 17, Issue 5, pp 419–443 | Cite as

The use of modelling and simulation approach in reconstructing past landscapes from fossil pollen data: a review and results from the POLLANDCAL network

  • Marie-José Gaillard
  • Shinya Sugita
  • M. Jane Bunting
  • Richard Middleton
  • Anna Broström
  • Christopher Caseldine
  • Thomas Giesecke
  • Sophie E. V. Hellman
  • Sheila Hicks
  • Kari Hjelle
  • Catherine Langdon
  • Anne-Birgitte Nielsen
  • Anneli Poska
  • Henrik von Stedingk
  • Sim Veski
  • POLLANDCAL members


Information on past land cover in terms of absolute areas of different landscape units (forest, open land, pasture land, cultivated land, etc.) at local to regional scales is needed to test hypotheses and answer questions related to climate change (e.g. feedbacks effects of land-cover change), archaeological research, and nature conservancy (e.g. management strategy). The palaeoecological technique best suited to achieve quantitative reconstruction of past vegetation is pollen analysis. A simulation approach developed by Sugita (the computer model POLLSCAPE) which uses models based on the theory of pollen analysis is presented together with examples of application. POLLSCAPE has been adopted as the central tool for POLLANDCAL (POLlen/LANdscape CALibration), an international research network focusing on this topic. The theory behind models of the pollen–vegetation relationship and POLLSCAPE is reviewed. The two model outputs which receive greatest attention in this paper are the relevant source area of pollen (RSAP) and pollen loading in mires and lakes. Six examples of application of POLLSCAPE are presented, each of which explores a possible use of the POLLANDCAL tools and a means of validating or evaluating the models with empirical data. The landscape and vegetation factors influencing the size of the RSAP, the importance of pollen productivity estimates (PPEs) for the model outputs, the detection of small and rare patches of plant taxa in pollen records, and quantitative reconstructions of past vegetation and landscapes are discussed on the basis of these examples. The simulation approach is seen to be useful both for exploring different vegetation/landscape scenarios and for refuting hypotheses.


POLLANDCAL network POLLSCAPE simulation model Pollen dispersal and deposition Relevant source area of pollen Quantitative reconstructions of past vegetation and landscapes 



We are very grateful to NordForsk for sponsoring the POLLANDCAL network, allowing us to develop our ideas on quantitative reconstructions of vegetation over 5 years. We also thank all colleagues outside POLLANDCAL for their interest in our work, and for involving us in research activities in which the POLLANDCAL approach could be helpful. In that respect, we especially thank Frank Oldfield (former leader of the IGBP PAGES Programme) and John Dearing [former leader of the HITE (Human Impacts on Terrestrial Ecosystems) working group of IGBP PAGES Focus 5], presently leader of Focus 4 “Past Human-Climate-Ecological Interactions (PHAROS). We are grateful for the very useful comments and suggestions of two anonymous reviewers.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marie-José Gaillard
    • 1
  • Shinya Sugita
    • 2
  • M. Jane Bunting
    • 3
  • Richard Middleton
    • 3
  • Anna Broström
    • 4
  • Christopher Caseldine
    • 5
  • Thomas Giesecke
    • 6
  • Sophie E. V. Hellman
    • 1
  • Sheila Hicks
    • 7
  • Kari Hjelle
    • 8
  • Catherine Langdon
    • 5
  • Anne-Birgitte Nielsen
    • 9
  • Anneli Poska
    • 10
  • Henrik von Stedingk
    • 11
  • Sim Veski
    • 10
  • POLLANDCAL members
  1. 1.School of Pure and Applied Natural SciencesUniversity of KalmarKalmarSweden
  2. 2.Institute of EcologyTallinn UniversityTallinnEstonia
  3. 3.Department of GeographyUniversity of HullHullUK
  4. 4.Geobiosphere Science CentreLund UniversityLundSweden
  5. 5.School of Geography, Archaeology and Earth ResourcesUniversity of ExeterCornwallUK
  6. 6.Department of GeographyUniversity of LiverpoolLiverpoolUK
  7. 7.Department of GeographyUniversity of OuluOuluFinland
  8. 8.Natural History CollectionsUniversity of BergenBergenNorway
  9. 9.Department of Quaternary GeologyGeological Survey of Greenland and DenmarkCopenhagenDenmark
  10. 10.Institute of GeologyTallinn University of TechnologyTallinnEstonia
  11. 11.Department of Forest Ecology and ManagementSwedish University of Agricultural SciencesUmeåSweden

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