Late Holocene retrogression of forest ecosystems: Causes, processes and consequences for biodiversity

Czech Science Foundation 17-07851S board no. P504

A multi-proxy palaeoecological study of the process of retrogression in temperate forest ecosystems during the Holocene, and its impact on past and present biodiversity. We have designed several hypotheses to infer the complex history of ecosystems that survive in the environments where the process of retrogression has taken place. We focus on Bohemian sandstone areas, where the retrogression was exceptionally dramatic, and where a number of high-quality palaeoecological and archaeological archives are currently available. We are aiming to complete these archives during the project. Our effort will shed new light on the history and temporal dynamics of these specific areas. (Bohemian sandstone areas are protected regions and it seems that recent environmental changes are also changing their biodiversity.) At the same time, the research is far from being a purely theoretical issue or a case study with only local impact. The retrogression processes influence ecosystems worldwide and an understanding of these processes will help decision-makers with biodiversity protection.

Main goals of the project are the following:
(1) To describe the phenomenon of retrogressive succession and its variability using multiple Holocene proxies.
(2) To clarify links between the phenomenon, climate change, soil development and human impact.
(3) To make inferences about this phenomenon in terms of ecological patterns.

Principal investigator: Petr Pokorný (Center for Theoretical Study, Charles University)
Associate Investigators: Jan Wild (Institute of Botany of the Czech Academy of Sciences)