General description

Quaternary palaeoecology provides critical baseline information on the past vegetation for nature preservation, resource management and environmental policies in view of human-induced global warming and other environmental changes. Various numerical methods have been proposed and applied for objective pollen-based reconstruction of past vegetation. However, those methods have not fully consider biases in vegetation reconstruction caused by important factors, such as spatial heterogeneity of source plants, intertaxonomic differences in pollen dispersal and productivity, and characteristics of sedimentary basins. Recent advances in the theory of pollen analysis (Prentice 1985; Sugita 1994, 2007a, b) have overcome some of those issues, making quantitative reconstruction of vegetation feasible and reliable across spatial scales from local to landscape to regional. However, the theory and associated models are complex and unfamiliar to many palaeoecologists, particularly PhD students and early-career researchers.

Thus the main objective of the POLQUANT summer school is to offer opportunities for the next generation of palaeoecologists to learn the logic and assumptions behind the theory and to provide practical road maps and caveats for application of the approach for empirical studies in many parts of the world.



The proposed summer school aims to: (1) provide well-focused and -structured lectures and practical exercises with which early-career palaeoecologists are able to acquire a better understanding and hand-on experience of new modeling approaches, and (2) facilitate objective and constructive critiques on the potentials and limits of vegetation reconstruction from a theory/model -based view. The latter is something new in palaeoecology and potentially helps to lead careful planning of the sampling designs and strategies for specific research objectives. This course emphasizes the importance of the basic concepts, assumptions and mechanisms critical for reliable vegetation reconstruction and how to apply the reconstruction framework critically and realistically.


Expected outcomes from the summer school

1- Clear understanding of the basic concepts and assumptions behind the theory and methods for vegetation reconstruction – One of the most important aspects in modeling is a “purposeful representation” of reality, not its complete representation; a “purposeful” model considers only those factors and mechanisms of reality that are indispensable (Starfield et al. 1990). This is crucial for participants to think what a model is in general. We will discuss extensively important features of the pollen-vegetation relationship that are “purposefully” selected and critical for vegetation reconstruction.

2- Sufficient hands-on experience for participants to be able to analyze data independently – Lectures on theory and method are not always effective unless participants try those by themselves. Hands-on experience and caveats from instructors are informative at every step of the model-based vegetation reconstruction that we will introduce: collection of input data in the field, selection of plant taxa for modeling, preparation of input data files to run computer programs, and interpretation of model outputs. We will provide practical sessions in addition to a field excursion; thus, participants will have ample examples and opportunities to become self-sufficient in model-based vegetation reconstruction.

3- Planting seeds for the next generation of palaeoecologists to think critically on important issues, necessary skills, and future development of model-based reconstruction of vegetation – Complacency, or business-as-usual mentality, does not work in any field of science. Although actual field and lab experience is unreplaceable, mixing the traditional descriptive approach in palaeoecology with a hypothesis-testing strategy is necessary to increase the exposure of important palaeorecords to other environmental disciplines such as climatology and ecology. Modeling is a useful tool and critical skill for the next generation of palaeoecologists in this regard. In addition participants will have a plenty of opportunities to work together during the course projects; thus this summer school will help network an international group of early-career palaeoecologists to stimulate one another for a long time in their academic life.