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Quantifying human impacts to tease apart cultural and climatic drivers of Holocene vegetation change - QuantHum

English title Quantifying human impacts to tease apart cultural and climatic drivers of Holocene vegetation change - QuantHum
Applicant Conedera Marco
Number 169371
Funding scheme Project funding (Div. I-III)
Research institution Eidg. Forschungsanstalt für Wald, Schnee und Landschaft Ökologie der Lebensgemeinschaften
Institution of higher education Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research - WSL
Main discipline Environmental Research
Start/End 01.09.2017 - 31.01.2021
Approved amount 393'908.00
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All Disciplines (2)

Discipline
Environmental Research
Other disciplines of Environmental Sciences

Keywords (4)

ecological modeling; human impact; early agrarian land-use systems; vegetation history

Lay Summary (Italian)

Lead
Gli effetti dell’impatto umano e del clima sulla vegetazione sono spesso sovrapposti e variano sia nello spazio che nel tempo. Isolare l’impatto umano dall’influenza del clima non è quindi un compito facile. L’obiettivo di questo progetto è quello di utilizzare le informazioni contenute in studi palinologici dettagliati alfine di sviluppare un indice quantitativo dell’intensità dell’impatto umano nel centro e nel sud dell’Europa durante l’ultimo postglaciale.
Lay summary

Soggetto e descrizione del problema

La pianificazione della gestione del territorio implica la capacità di prevenire e mitigare gli effetti del cambiamento globale sui processi ecologici. Un tale approccio non può prescindere da una solida conoscenza delle relazioni che sono intercorse nel passato tra i fattori ambientali quali il clima, la vegetazione e l’uomo. La paleoecologia rappresenta una grande opportunità in questo senso in quanto permette di studiare i processi ecologici e i loro fattori di influenza su periodi che vanno dai decenni ai millenni. La grande sfida nell’interpretare le informazioni paleoecologiche sta nella capacità di individuare il contributo relativo dei diversi fattori esterni che in passato hanno condizionato le dinamiche ecologiche.

Obiettivi

L’obiettivo di questo progetto è quello di utilizzare studi palinologici dettagliati e basati su indicatori dell’impatto umano (p. es. polline di specie riconducibili a colture agricole o tipiche di zone utilizzate a pascolo) e dell’andamento climatico (p.es. isotopi di ossigeno) alfine di sviluppare un indice quantitativo dell’intensità dell’impatto umano.

Gli obiettivi specifici del progetto sono:

  • Quantificare la relazione tra intensità dell’uso del suolo e tipi pollinici indicatori di impatto antropico;
  • Sviluppare un indice di intensità dell’impatto umano quantitativo, riproducibile e direttamente applicabile ad altri profili pollinici europei.
  • Validare la proposta di indice utilizzando delle informazioni archeologiche indipendenti;
  • Ricostruire l’evoluzione dell’intensità dell’uso del territorio in Svizzera negli ultimi 10 millenni a una risoluzione centennale sulla base delle informazioni della Banca Dati Palinologica Alpina (ALPADABA).
Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 06.12.2016

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Abstract

Planning for the future requires anticipating the impacts of global change on ecological processes. One way to approach this challenge is to develop an understanding of the relationships among environmental variables (e.g., climate, vegetation, and human impacts) in the past, and apply this understanding to future scenarios. Paleoecology provides valuable archives of past ecological changes that span decades to millennia. For example, pollen-inferred vegetation reconstructions document long-term changes in land cover, species distributions, and disturbance regimes. However, understanding the causes of past ecological change is complicated because ecosystem dynamics are controlled by multiple drivers. In Europe, both human impacts and climate change have been dominant drivers of vegetation change since the onset of the Neolithic period ca. 8000-7000 years ago. Humans have had a massive impact on landscapes, altering land cover, species distributions, and disturbance regimes. Therefore, climate impacts on ecosystems since the Neolithic must be understood within the context of human land use. However, it is difficult to separate human and climatic impacts. Land use and climate are often linked, and human impacts varied regionally and through time. Carefully designed paleoecological studies can isolate human and climatic impacts by using separate proxies for climate (e.g. oxygen isotopes, chironomid-inferred temperatures) and human impacts (e.g. weed and crop pollen). However, even with separate proxies it remains difficult to reconstruct changes in the intensity of human impacts through time, and therefore understand the relative importance of separate drivers of vegetation change. This project aims to develop a first quantitative index of human-impact intensity for paleoecological records. We will develop an index using published, well-dated, high-resolution pollen data sets that document pristine forests and the onset and intensification of human impacts on vegetation in Switzerland and Italy. The selected datasets present the best-known examples of how humans altered past vegetation at sites representative of environmental conditions throughout Southern and Central Europe, and therefore provide a valuable key to consistent interpretation of human impacts at new sites of these regions. Our new impact index will provide numeric, reproducible, and detailed reconstructions of changing human land use, which will allow a refined attribution of long-term climatic impacts in human-dominated ecosystems. The specific goals of this project are to:?Quantify the relationship between land-use intensity and human-indicator pollen types using well-known baseline pollen reconstructions of human impact.?Develop a quantitative, reproducible index of human-impact intensity that can be readily applied to pollen-inferred reconstructions in Europe.?Validate the proposed human impact index by comparing its outcomes with independent archaeological data.?Reconstruct changes in land-use intensity at a centennial scale for the last 10,000 years throughout Switzerland at a spatial scale using the internal Alpine Palynological Database (ALPADABA) of well-dated pollen series.This project will provide the first quantitative human-impact index for Quaternary pollen data that will be applicable to new and existing datasets. We will also provide the first regional quantification of changing land use based on Holocene pollen data from Southern and Central Europe. Such information is critical to understanding climate change impacts on human dominated ecosystems, and therefore developing management plans in an era of global change.
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