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Disentangling the pollen signal from fen systems: modern and Holocene studies from southern and eastern England

Disentangling the pollen signal from fen systems: modern and Holocene studies from southern and eastern England
Disentangling the pollen signal from fen systems: modern and Holocene studies from southern and eastern England
Thick deposits of peat derived from fen environments accumulated in the coastal lowland areas adjacent to the North Sea during the middle and late Holocene. These sediments are frequently used in pollen-based reconstructions of in situ and more distant vegetation. However, discriminating between wetland and dry land originating pollen signals, and between the potential fen communities present in the wetland, is complex. In this study, a suite of analytical approaches are used to explore the pollen signal of modern fen communities and compare them against Holocene pollen assemblages. At two sites in eastern England, Woodwalton Fen and Upton Broad, vegetation composition was recorded around a series of moss polster sampling points. The communities investigated included herbaceous fen communities under different cutting regimes, a grazed area, glades, and woodland with canopies dominated by Alnus glutinosa and Betula. Cluster analysis is used to provide an overview of, and compare the structure within, the datasets consisting of the vegetation, the vegetation converted to palynological equivalents, and the pollen data. It is demonstrated that any loss of taxonomic precision in pollen identifications does not pose particular problems when attempting to identify fen communities, including tall-herbaceous vegetation, in the pollen record. Indices of Association imply pollen presence can be interpreted as indicating the local presence for some taxa, though few of these are confined to a particular community. Herbaceous fen vegetation subject to different management regimes are, however, shown to produce distinctive pollen signatures. Middle and late Holocene pollen assemblages from eastern (Fenland) and southern (Romney Marsh) England, interpreted as derived from fen vegetation, are compared against the modern pollen dataset using ordination. Most of the fossil samples plot out within or adjacent to the groupings produced by the modern samples in the ordinations. While these investigations demonstrate that modern pollen work can help improve the interpretation of Holocene assemblages they also call attention to a number of limitations including the restricted range of communities from which modern samples are currently available and the potential for non-analogous modern vegetation. The paper concludes with ideas to aid the interpretation of pollen data collected from fen peats and suggestions for future work.
0034-6667
15-33
Waller, Martyn
502455b4-1de8-4341-9907-dc719772c7df
Carvalho, Fabio
68ec7351-56b9-4f53-ae47-c80e2c39f0c1
Grant, Michael J.
56dae074-d54a-4da8-858a-2bf364a5a550
Bunting, M. Jane
23938df2-823f-4ce2-8429-c479e15ec268
Brown, Kerry
00b4a6b0-4983-4337-804b-58a27ede0a5b
Waller, Martyn
502455b4-1de8-4341-9907-dc719772c7df
Carvalho, Fabio
68ec7351-56b9-4f53-ae47-c80e2c39f0c1
Grant, Michael J.
56dae074-d54a-4da8-858a-2bf364a5a550
Bunting, M. Jane
23938df2-823f-4ce2-8429-c479e15ec268
Brown, Kerry
00b4a6b0-4983-4337-804b-58a27ede0a5b

Waller, Martyn, Carvalho, Fabio, Grant, Michael J., Bunting, M. Jane and Brown, Kerry (2017) Disentangling the pollen signal from fen systems: modern and Holocene studies from southern and eastern England. Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology, 238, 15-33. (doi:10.1016/j.revpalbo.2016.11.007).

Record type: Article

Abstract

Thick deposits of peat derived from fen environments accumulated in the coastal lowland areas adjacent to the North Sea during the middle and late Holocene. These sediments are frequently used in pollen-based reconstructions of in situ and more distant vegetation. However, discriminating between wetland and dry land originating pollen signals, and between the potential fen communities present in the wetland, is complex. In this study, a suite of analytical approaches are used to explore the pollen signal of modern fen communities and compare them against Holocene pollen assemblages. At two sites in eastern England, Woodwalton Fen and Upton Broad, vegetation composition was recorded around a series of moss polster sampling points. The communities investigated included herbaceous fen communities under different cutting regimes, a grazed area, glades, and woodland with canopies dominated by Alnus glutinosa and Betula. Cluster analysis is used to provide an overview of, and compare the structure within, the datasets consisting of the vegetation, the vegetation converted to palynological equivalents, and the pollen data. It is demonstrated that any loss of taxonomic precision in pollen identifications does not pose particular problems when attempting to identify fen communities, including tall-herbaceous vegetation, in the pollen record. Indices of Association imply pollen presence can be interpreted as indicating the local presence for some taxa, though few of these are confined to a particular community. Herbaceous fen vegetation subject to different management regimes are, however, shown to produce distinctive pollen signatures. Middle and late Holocene pollen assemblages from eastern (Fenland) and southern (Romney Marsh) England, interpreted as derived from fen vegetation, are compared against the modern pollen dataset using ordination. Most of the fossil samples plot out within or adjacent to the groupings produced by the modern samples in the ordinations. While these investigations demonstrate that modern pollen work can help improve the interpretation of Holocene assemblages they also call attention to a number of limitations including the restricted range of communities from which modern samples are currently available and the potential for non-analogous modern vegetation. The paper concludes with ideas to aid the interpretation of pollen data collected from fen peats and suggestions for future work.

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More information

Submitted date: 18 July 2016
Accepted/In Press date: 20 November 2016
e-pub ahead of print date: 6 December 2016
Published date: March 2017
Organisations: Ocean and Earth Science, Geology & Geophysics, Archaeology

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 398095
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/398095
ISSN: 0034-6667
PURE UUID: 6410ca64-273a-43fd-9063-835f53c1261c
ORCID for Michael J. Grant: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0002-4766-6913

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Date deposited: 28 Nov 2016 15:31
Last modified: 28 Apr 2022 05:00

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Contributors

Author: Martyn Waller
Author: Fabio Carvalho
Author: M. Jane Bunting
Author: Kerry Brown

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