Long-term woodland dynamics in Central-Eastern Europe – coevolution of natural and anthropogenic forces


petr kunes_neu

Dr. Petr Kuneš
Charles University, Prague

Forests have undergone gradual change since their formation after the end of the glacial. Until today, these forests have been influenced by humans for at least eight millennia being gradually transformed into today’s agriculture landscape. However, to the simple disappearance of woodland we have to account with various forest management regimes, which profoundly altered woodlands’ structure and species composition. So far, mechanisms behind these changes have been poorly understood due to the lack of cooperation among the disciplines dealing with the subject and differences in spatio-temporal scaling and resolution.

The LONGWOOD project aims to study long-term woodland cover, structure, composition and management in a larger study region (Moravia, the Czech Republic, ca. 27,000 km2) by connecting several disciplines using an extensive range of primary sources from history, historical geography, palaeoecology, archaeology and ecology. We aim to analyze causes of the patterns of both qualitative and quantitative factors with the help of quantitative landscape models.

Reconstructing vegetation directly from paleo-proxy data is not a straightforward task. Recent developments in pollen analysis enable spatially explicit quantifications of land cover, which allow for direct integrations in climate models and comparisons with human settlement density and activities. Similarly, information on past human activity (population densities) has been derived with help of archaeological and historical data, but either concerned too coarse spatial scales or suffered from problematic issues (sampling strategies, period preferences or changes in mobility and subsistence). To derive more exact information on regional human activities in a long-term perspective, a model based on a detailed and complete archaeological survey is essential. Vracov_paleoveg

In presented case studies, we applied the REVEALS and LOVE models in 500-year intervals of the Holocene based on multiple sites in selected regions on an altitudinal gradient in eastern Czech Republic. We estimated the composition of 28 taxa within 100 km radius for each area and compiled the archaeological database of human settlements that we used to estimate a human activity model for the entire area. Finally, we compared the reconstructed land-cover changes to the climate at the study site as simulated by an independent Macrophysical Climate Model.

By using this approach we aim to address two fundamental questions of the Holocene woodland (vegetation) development in central-eastern Europe: (1) What was the origin and dynamics of grassland (non-forest) vegetation, and (2) what changes in woodland composition and structure can be linked to humans and management?

I got my education in biology at the Faculty of Science, Charles University in Prague, where I was also awarded a Ph.D. in botany in 2008. My doctoral thesis focused on palaeoecology of pre-Neolithic environment in Central Europe using mainly pollen analyses and modern vegetation analogues. After finishing my Ph.D. I got a postdoctoral position at the Department for Geoscience, Aarhus University through the scholarship of the Carlsberg foundation. I worked with prof. Bent Odgaard on vegetation dynamics during interglacial periods. During my stay I also had a great opportunity to join an international network dealing with quantitative land-cover and climate reconstructions lead by prof. Marie-José Gaillard, which offered me fruitful interdisciplinary collaborations. In 2011 I went back to the Charles University in Prague where I got a position as assistant professor at the Department of Botany. Here I teach quaternary palaeoecology and develop my research in a small group dealing with pollen-based quantitative vegetation reconstructions. Since 2012 I partly work in the Institute of Botany CAS as a WP leader of the interdisciplinary.

Event Information:

Date, Time: 19/10/2015, 16:00 h – 17:00 h

Location: Room S22, Seminargebäude (Building 106), Universitätsstraße 37 , Cologne

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