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Home sapiens or Castor fiber?

  • J. M. Coles and B. J. Orme

Following the development of pollen analysis in the earlier part of this century, much effort was devoted to unravelling the sequence of vegetational change during and after the retreat of the last European ice-sheets. The outlines established, questions of causation came to the fore, and the debate focused on factors such as climatic change, rate of species migration from glacial refuges, and natural vegetational succession. In more recent decades, a further factor has been widely investigated, namely the possible influence of humans on the landscape, principally as farmers and smiths. The development and modification of hypotheses is well illustrated by the Elm Decline of the Atlantic period, where climate (Iversen, 1941) or man (Troels-Smith, 1960) and occasionally disease (see refs in Simmons & Tooley, 1981, 134) have been held responsible for a widespread but by no means straightforward decline in elm pollen.

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