Quantifying pollen-vegetation relationships to reconstruct ancient forests using 19th-century forest composition and pollen data

BioRxiv : the Preprint Server for Biology
Andria DawsonStephen T Jackson

Abstract

Mitigation of climate change and adaptation to its effects relies partly on how effectively land-atmosphere interactions can be quantified. Quantifying composition of past forest ecosystems can help understand processes governing forest dynamics in a changing world. Fossil pollen data provide information about past forest composition, but rigorous interpretation requires development of pollen-vegetation models (PVMs) that account for interspecific differences in pollen production and dispersal. Widespread and intensified land-use over the 19th and 20th centuries may have altered pollen-vegetation relationships. Here we use STEPPS, a Bayesian hierarchical spatial PVM, to estimate key process parameters and associated uncertainties in the pollen-vegetation relationship. We apply alternate dispersal kernels, and calibrate STEPPS using a newly developed Euro-American settlement-era calibration data set constructed from Public Land Survey data and fossil pollen samples matched to the settlement-era using expert elicitation. Models based on the inverse power-law dispersal kernel outperformed those based on the Gaussian dispersal kernel, indicating that pollen dispersal kernels are fat tailed. Pine and birch have the highest pollen pr...Continue Reading

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