Vegetation History and Archaeobotany

, Volume 19, Issue 4, pp 325–340 | Cite as

Can we detect a west Norwegian tree line from modern samples of plant remains and pollen? Results from the DOORMAT project

  • Hilary H. BirksEmail author
  • Anne E. Bjune
Original Article


In the DOORMAT (Direct Observation of Recent Macrofossils Across Treeline) project, the modern representation of local vegetation by pollen and plant remains (plant macrofossils) across a west Norwegian tree line, composed of Betula pubescens and Pinus sylvestris, has been studied over 2 years. The aim was to discover if the modern tree line could be detected and therefore how precisely past tree-line movements could be reconstructed and related to Holocene climate changes by using one proxy or a combination of both. Traps were placed in the vegetation from 663 to 1,120 m a.s.l., spanning the pine altitudinal species limit, the birch tree-line ecotone, and the vegetation zones up to the mid-alpine zone. Three traps were also set in the small lake Trettetjørn close to the modern tree line at 800 m a.s.l. Traps were emptied twice a year to sample both summer and winter seasons. Macrofossils represent their local vegetation well. However, tree Betula remains were trapped above the tree line and Pinus and Picea remains were recorded 1.0–1.5 km away from their sources, demonstrating considerable dispersal capacity. This shows that rare macrofossil remains do not necessarily represent the local presence of these trees. Aerial tree pollen deposition in traps at the upper limit of pine woodland and in the subalpine birch woodland was unexpectedly low, whereas pollen accumulation rates (PAR) were orders of magnitude higher in the lake traps. We hypothesise that the lake receives regional pollen rain washed in from its catchment by snow meltwater and that high values in traps are due to continuous suspension of pollen in the lake water during summer. The interpretation of tree-line changes from existing Holocene pollen and plant macrofossil data from Trettetjørn was supported and refined by the DOORMAT macrofossil data, but the modern pollen data were anomalous.


Monitoring Pollen Plant macrofossils PAR Seasonal deposition Tree-line ecotone 



This paper is dedicated to Sheila Hicks, in recognition of her enormous contribution to pollen-trapping research, her skill at organising and integrating diverse researchers towards a common goal, and her ability to inspire and encourage others in the nicest possible way; a wonderful colleague.

We are grateful to all our constant fieldwork helpers; Arguitxu de la Riva Caballero, Lene Halvorsen, Cathy Jenks, and Richard Telford, and occasional helpers; Susana Agudalo Assuad, Andrea Balbo, John Birks, Michelle Crenshaw, La Duo, Sonja Favoetto, Oriol Grau, Bjørn Arild Hatteland, Ulrike Herzschuh, Naomi Holmes, Joshua Hooker, Morten Mortensen, Bianca Perren, Ismaele Sostizzo and Charlotte Whitham. We thank Pim van der Knaap, Walter Finsinger, John Birks, and another reviewer for helpful comments. We gratefully acknowledge funding from Bergen Myrdyrkningsfond in 2004 and from 2004 to 2009 from the Olaf Grolle Olsens legat til UiB med tilførsel av arv etter Miranda Bødtker (Olaf Grolle Olsen’s Legacy to the University of Bergen with the addition of the bequest of Miranda Bødtker) of the University of Bergen. This is publication A275 from the Bjerknes Centre for Climate Research, University of Bergen.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of BiologyUniversity of BergenBergenNorway
  2. 2.Bjerknes Centre for Climate Research, c/o Department of BiologyUniversity of BergenBergenNorway

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