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Prof Keith Bennett

Professor. Keith Bennett - Queen's University Belfast Research Portal - Research Directory & Institutional Repository for QUB
Keith Bennett

Phone: +44 (0)28 9097 5136

For media contact email comms.office@qub.ac.uk
or call +44(0)2890 973091.

Interests

Late-Quaternary environmental change of Kamchatka

Late-Quaternary dynamics of western Tierra del Fuego, Chile

Using microcomputers as pollen counters, computer-assisted analysis (routine and multivariate) and plotting of pollen data. I have written programs for this in BASIC, FORTRAN and C ( psimpoll).

Evolution of plants and animals in relation to climatic change on Quaternary timescales.

Other

Available at the 14Chrono Centre:

1. Catalogue of pollen types of the British Isles

2. psimpoll and pscomb: software for plotting and numerical analysis of Quaternary microfossil data

3. Quaternary microfossil data-handlingcourse notes

4. INQUA Data-handling newsletters

Particulars

Queen's University Belfast

Professor of Late-Quaternary Environmental Change 2007 -

Uppsala University

Professor of Quaternary Geology 1998 – 2006
Head, Palaeobiology program
Responsible for Quaternary Geology program (1998–2002), Palaeobiology program (2003–2006).
Responsible for research education in Quaternary Geology (1998–2002).

University of Cambridge

University Officer 1985 – 1998
Assistant in Research (1985 – 1988), Senior Assistant in Research (1988 – 1991), and Assistant Director of Research (1991 – 1998).


Scarborough Campus, University of Toronto

NSERC Postdoctoral Research Fellow 1983 – 1985
Research on the Holocene dynamics of tree species in southern Ontario, Canada.

Degrees

Ph.D.,Tree population history in the Flandrian of East Anglia, University of Cambridge, 1983
M.A., University of Cambridge, 1983
B.A., Natural Sciences (Botany), University of Cambridge, 1979

Research Statement

My dominant scientific interest, throughout my career, has been the understanding of how organisms have responded to major climatic changes, such as those at glacial-interglacial transitions. I have pursued this major interest through several lines of enquiry:

• Development of a theoretical basis for understanding the role of Quaternary climate change in macroevolution and speciation. In particular, I have highlighted the observation that, despite substantial climatic and other environmental changes during the Quaternary, there has been remarkably little evolution (in the form of, for example, lineage splitting [speciation]) as a consequence (Bennett 1990; Bennett 1997; Bennett 2004). Furthermore, the driving factors of Quaternary climatic changes are the Earth's orbital variations, which are a consequence of the Earth's position in the Solar System and must, therefore, be a continuous feature of the whole of Earth history, albeit not necessarily with the same amplitude as currently. I have pointed out that fossil data appears to show major increases and distribution changes for some taxa (such as temperate trees) at the beginning of the current interglacial but that these changes are unlikely to survive. Long-term survival of taxa is likely to depend on persistence throughout in southern localities. The new populations in higher latitudes will become extinct (Bennett et al. 1991).

• I am working to draw theoretical understanding of evolution closer to what actually happened by the extraction and analysis of ancient DNA (aDNA) from fossil pollen(the most abundant and accessible fossils of the Quaternary). DNA from living organisms is accessible and can be readily analysed to give hypotheses about the pattern of evolution of current lineages. The fossil record can show, broadly, how species (or higher categories) have changed in abundance across space and time, but aDNA is needed to show which genotypes were present at particular points in space and time. This precision is needed to show whether there is any connection between the appearance of new lineages (evolution) and episodes or events of environmental change (Parducci et al. 2005).

• Development of the understanding of ecological aspects of how organisms have responded to climatic changes has been a long-running theme of my research. Aspects include comparisons between the records of different interglacials (Tzedakis & Bennett 1995), the significance of changing atmospheric CO 2 as a forcing-factor for vegetation changes (Bennett & Willis 2000), the rate of increase of populations (Bennett 1983), spread across regions and continents (Bennett 1984;Giesecke & Bennett 2004), the link between these (Bennett 1986; Bennett 1988),and conservation implications of palaeoecological work (Willis et al. 2007).

• Acquisition of new data, principally from parts of the world that had been under-explored, by means of pollen analytical and related investigations of lake sediments. Early in my career, I developed a set of criteria for determining the types of lakes that would be (i) suitable for such investigations, and (ii) readily available. I applied this approach to investigations of small lakes in southern Ontario (Canada)in the 1980s, while studying the rates of response of forest trees to postglacial warming (Bennett 1988; Bennett 1993), then to investigations of the woodland-moorland ecotone in the far north and west of the British Isles (Bennett et al. 1992). In the early 1990s, I began work in the archipelagoes of southern Chile,using the same methodological approach, investigating initially the early postglacial development of forests at around latitude 45S (Bennett et al. 2000; Haberle &Bennett 2004), and then extended the work to the woodland-moorland ecotone of the extreme south (at around latitude 55S). Most recently, I led a scientific project of a Swedish Polar Secretariat expedition to Kamchatka (far eastern Russia), and collected lake sediments from comparable sites for the first multidisciplinary investigation of postglacial vegetation and environmental change there. I have used my fieldwork experience to advise and actively participate in expeditions to collect similar material in support of other researchers (e.g. northern and eastern Europe, Morocco, Kenya, USA, China, Galapagos, Peru).

• Development of methods for the analysis of palaeoecological data. I wrote, and have maintained for 15 years, psimpoll, a program for the graphical presentation and numerical analysis of palaeoecological data. Novel features of this program are that it (i) is available for all known platforms (including DOS/Windows, Apple and unix), (ii) allows the use and comparison of multiple techniques for several key numerical tasks (such as zonation and age-depth modeling), (iii) provides confidence intervals for all calculated parameters, and (iv) incorporates techniques that I have developed for determining the numbers of zones in a stratigraphic sequence (Bennett 1996), the placing of confidence intervals on sediment and microfossil accumulation rates (Bennett 1994), and determining the ages of events (Bennett & Fuller 2002).

My current dominant lines of research interest are: (i) evolution during the Quaternary (Bennett 2010; paper in progress); (ii) the refugial behaviour of organisms during periods of less favourable climate (Provan & Bennett 2008; Bennett & Provan 2008; paper in progress); (iii) late-Quaternary of Kamchatka (Ph.D. student, collaboration with colleagues in Sweden); (iv) late-Quaternary of southern South America (PhD student, several lake sediment sequences under investigation, with colleagues in Sweden and Germany, as well as in our laboratory in QUB; paper in press); and (v) further development of numerical methods for use in late Quaternary palaeoecology (jointly with Prof. Kathy Willis [University of Oxford]).

Bennett, K.D. Postglacial population expansion of forest trees in Norfolk, UK. Nature 303,164-167 (1983).

Bennett, K.D. The post-glacial history of Pinus sylvestris in the British Isles. Quaternary Science Reviews 3, 133-155 (1984).

Bennett, K.D. The rate of spread and population increase of forest trees during the postglacial. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London Series B 314, 523-531(1986).

Bennett, K.D. Holocene geographic spread and population expansion of Fagus grandifolia in Ontario, Canada. Journal of Ecology 76, 547-557 (1988).

Bennett, K.D. Milankovitch cycles and their effects on species in ecological and evolutionary time. Paleobiology 16, 11-21 (1990).

Bennett, K.D., Tzedakis, P.C. & Willis, K.J. Quaternary refugia of north European trees. Journal of Biogeography 18, 103-115 (1991).

Bennett, K.D., Boreham, S., Sharp, M.J. & Switsur, V.R. Holocene history of environment, vegetation and human settlement on Catta Ness, Lunnasting, Shetland. Journal of Ecology 80,241-273 (1992).

Bennett, K.D. Holocene forest dynamics with respect to southern Ontario. Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology 79, 69-81 (1993).

Bennett, K.D. Confidence intervals for age estimates and deposition times in late-Quaternary sediment sequences. The Holocene 4, 337-348 (1994).

Tzedakis, P.C. & Bennett, K.D. Interglacial vegetation succession: a view from southern Europe. Quaternary Science Reviews 14, 967-982 (1995).

Bennett, K.D. Determination of the number of zones in a biostratigraphical sequence. NewPhytologist 132, 155-170 (1996).

Bennett, K.D. Evolution and Ecology: the Pace of Life (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1997 [Extended excerpts available at http://books.google.com]).

Bennett, K.D., Haberle, S.G. & Lumley, S.H. The last glacial-Holocene transition in southern Chile. Science 290, 325-328 (2000).

Bennett, K.D. & Willis, K.J. Effect of global atmospheric carbon dioxide on glacial-interglacial vegetation change. Global Ecology and Biogeography 9, 355-361 (2000).

Bennett, K.D. & Fuller, J.L. Determining the age of the mid-Holocene Tsuga canadensis (hemlock) decline, eastern North America. The Holocene 12, 421-429 (2002).

Bennett, K.D. Continuing the debate on the role of Quaternary environmental change for macroevolution. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B 359, 295-303 (2004).

Giesecke, T. & Bennett, K.D. The Holocene spread of Picea abies (L.) Karst. in Fennoscandia and adjacent areas. Journal of Biogeography 31, 1523-1548 (2004).

Haberle, S.G. & Bennett, K.D. Postglacial formation and dynamics of North Patagonian Rainforest in the Chonos Archipelago, Southern Chile. Quaternary Science Reviews 23,2433-2452 (2004).

Parducci, L., Suyama, Y., Lascoux, M. & Bennett, K.D. Ancient DNA from pollen: a geneticrecord of population history in Scots pine. Molecular Ecology 14, 2873-2882 (2005).

Willis, K.J., Araujo, M.B., Bennett, K.D., Figueroa-Rangel, B., Froyd, C.A. & Myers, N.How can a knowledge of the past help to conserve the future? Biodiversity conservation andthe relevance of long-term ecological studies. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B 362, 175-186 (2007).

J. Provan & K. D. Bennett. Phylogeographical insights into cryptic glacial refugia. Trends in Ecology and Evolution, 23:564-571 (2008).

K. D. Bennett & J. Provan. What do we mean by 'refugia' ? Quaternary Science Reviews, 27:2449-2455 (2008).

K. Bennett. The chaos theory of evolution. New Scientist, (2782):28-31 (2010).

Teaching

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Contribution to conference papers, events and activities

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