Contact us

Faculty of Science, Engineering and Computing.
Penrhyn Road
Kingston upon Thames
Surrey KT1 2EE

Tel: +44 (0)20 8417 9000

Centre for Earth and Environmental Science Research

Modern pollen/vegetation relationships in alder carr as an aid to the interpretation of Holocene pollen diagrams.

Executive Summary
ResearchersDr M. Waller (Principal Investigator): CEESR
Dr J. Bunting (Co-investigator): Department of Geography, University of Hull, Cottingham Road, Hull, HU6 7RX
Dr R. Armitage (Co-investigator): CEESR, now at School of Environment & Life Sciences, University of Salford, Salford, Manchester M5 4WT
Dr H. Binney (PDRA): CEESR, now at Environmental Change Research Centre, University College London, 26 Bedford Way, London WC1H 0AP
Funding Body/SourceNERC
DurationJune 2001-May 2002
Project Summary

Pollen analysis is one of the main tools used to reconstruct past vegetation. Interpreting pollen records requires assumptions to be made about the relationship between the pollen deposited at a given location and the surrounding vegetation. This relationship can be assessed through pollen-vegetation studies in contemporary situations.

Sediments formed in fen environments (wet, mineral-rich vegetation, including open herbaceous and woodland communities) are the most widely available source of material for pollen-based reconstructions in lowland Britain and parts of north-western Europe. In many areas they provide the only opportunity to investigate vegetation change over the Holocene (the last c. 11,000 years) potentially providing information on ecological processes (e.g. tree migration) and the impact of prehistoric cultures on the environment. To date these sediments have been under-utilised, in part due to the lack of information on pollen-vegetation relationships.

This project investigates pollen-vegetation relationships at two fen woodland (also termed carr) sites in Norfolk; Calthorpe Broad and Wheatfen. The modern pollen content of moss samples (a standard method for measuring pollen deposition) and the surrounding vegetation has been recorded at a total of 200 locations. Spatial relationships between these datasets have been explored using Geographical Information Systems and statistical techniques.

Fen vegetation is spatially heterogeneous and one aim of the project has been to explore how the distribution of fen woodland taxa (such as alder and willow) in the vegetation, is reflected in the pollen samples.

In pollen based studies of past vegetation it is often the nature of dryland communities that is of most interest. We have also sought to understand how the vegetation composition of adjacent areas of woodland is reflected in the pollen deposited across the fen carr areas.


Waller, M.P., Binney, H.A., Bunting, M.J. & Armitage, R. 2005. The interpretation of fen carr pollen diagrams: pollen-vegetation relationships within fen carr. Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology, 133, 179-202.

Binney, H.A., Waller, M.P., Bunting, M.J. & Armitage, R. 2005. The interpretation of fen carr pollen diagrams: the representation of the dryland vegetation. Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology, 134, 197-218.

Bunting, M.J., Armitage, R., Binney, H.A. & Waller, M.P. 2005. Estimates of relevant source area of pollen assemblages from moss polsters in two Norfolk (UK) wet woodlands. The Holocene, 15, 459-465.

Associated Research Groups


A new doctor-patient relationship in landform and landscape studies?

Professor Nick Clifford from King’s College London will be giving the 2014-15 CEESR Annual Lecture on …

Awards for Geology graduates

Recent KU Geology graduate,┬áDelano Henry, has been awarded the British Sedimentological Research Group Prize for Best …

Human activity has contributed to increased forestry disease

Connections between climate change and biological trends are often difficult to establish from short-term studies. In …