BSc (Hons) in Climate Change - Coventry University 2007-2010
MSc in Environmental Archaeology & Palaeoenvironments - University of Birmingham 2011
School of Geography, Archaeology and Palaeoecology (GAP)
Queen’s University Belfast
Belfast, BT7 1NN
Northern Ireland, UK
+44 (0)28 9097 5287
Can we determine open-ness in the palaeoecological record? Interpreting Holocene landscapes using modern analogues
This project aims to test the sensitivity of the palaeoecological record in detecting ‘open/closed-ness’ within ancient landscapes.
The fallout from the criticisms within the ‘Vera Hypothesis’ as to the ability of the palaeoecological record to determine landscape ‘open-ness’ have resulted in an increasing amount of research aimed at shoring-up some of the gaps in both the theoretical and methodological approach to open-ness. This research has largely been of a palynological bent, with a number of methods and models proposed; Psuedobiomisation, AP:NAP, Algebraic/Model Approach [REVEAL, LOVE], Modern Analogue Technique, Multiple Scenario Approach and the Indicator Species Approach. Building on a preliminary study by Smith et al. (2010)1 this project aims at testing the utility of an altogether different proxy, the order Coleoptera, for determining open-ness.
To accomplish this, the methodology utilised is based on a modern analogue proxy study of coleopteran death assemblages from sites of pre-determined ‘types’. The intention of this approach is to establish how, or if, degrees of canopy cover/open-ness affect the representation of niche communities in the death assemblage. Also incorporated in the research is a pollen analytical study of the sites visited; to compare and contrast palaeoecological approaches.
An ability to determine landscape open-ness has value outside of the palaeoecological field. From an archaeological perspective; it might add to the understanding of movement and transhumance in Palaeolithic & Mesolithic society; the spread and speed of settlement/agriculturalisation of the Neolithic and later prehistory; and perhaps even an added dimension as to the impact of plague events on rural communities.
Further potential impacts within open-ness research includes increasing spatial resolution to land cover/land cover change models (LC/LCC) utilised in climate studies, and also effects questions of how ‘natural’ vegetation could appear within protected/conserved landscapes.
Principal Supervisor: Dr Nicki Whitehouse (Queens University Belfast)
Secondary Supervisor: Dr Gill Plunkett (Queens University Belfast)
External Supervisor: Dr David Smith (University of Birmingham)
1Smith, D., Whitehouse, N., Bunting, M. Jane., Chapman, H. (2010) ‘Can we characterise ‘openness’ in the Holocene palaeoenvironmental record? Modern analogue studies of insect faunas and pollen spectra from Dunham Massey deer park and Epping Forest, England.’ The Holocene (20) 2, pp 215 - 229