Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Ecologists See The Primeval Wood For The Trees

Date:
January 27, 2005
Source:
Blackwell Publishing Ltd.
Summary:
Ancient woodlands in Europe may have been remarkably similar to the dense, dark forests of ancient folklore according to a paper published today in the British Ecological Society's Journal of Ecology.

Ancient woodlands in Europe may have been remarkably similar to the dense, dark forests of ancient folklore according to a paper published today in the British Ecological Society's Journal of Ecology.

The paper by Dr Fraser Mitchell of Trinity College Dublin provides important new evidence about the nature of ancient woodlands in temperate Europe, which has been the source of much controversy among forest ecologists. In 2000, the Dutch ecologist Frans Vera challenged the prevailing ecological view of ancient woodland as closed canopy forest by arguing that ancient woodlands would have resembled modern parkland because of the action of large grazing animals such as aurochs (primitive cattle), tarpan (wild horses), deer and wild boar.

There are no stands of primeval virgin woodland in Europe today, so ecologists analyse tree pollen, several thousands of years old, preserved in lakes and peat bogs to reconstruct primeval forest. But the analysis is open to interpretation, as Dr Mitchell explains: "As every hay fever sufferer knows, pollen blows about in the wind and this mixing of pollen from different sources places some imprecision on our reconstructions. This has fuelled debate among European ecologists as to how pollen data should be interpreted in relation to Vera's hypothesis. The crux of the debate is: did the forest control the grazers or did the grazers control the forest? The traditional view implies that forest structure dictated the carrying capacity of grazing animals whereas Vera's hypothesis dictates that the density of grazing animals controlled forest structure."

Modern ecologists can easily assess the impact of grazing on forests by using fences to exclude animals from areas under study. Dr Mitchell mimicked this experiment in primeval Ireland: "I could adopt this approach with primeval forests because all large grazing animals, with the exception of wild boar, were absent from Ireland in primeval times. The island of Ireland was like a huge grazing exclosure which can be compared to the rest of Europe where large grazing animals roamed. I could find no significant difference in the relevant primeval pollen data from Ireland compared to the rest of Europe. In other words, the presence or absence of large grazing animals had no measurable impact. My paper concludes that grazing animals did not exert a significant impact on primeval forest structure," he explains.

Understanding what primeval forests were like is important because woodland conservation policy in Europe seeks to recreate such habitats. "Current European forest conservation policy promotes closed canopy deciduous forest, but this policy would be misguided if the primeval forest was indeed more open, especially where the conservation aim is to maintain the forest close to its natural condition prior to human impact," Dr Mitchell says.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Blackwell Publishing Ltd.. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Blackwell Publishing Ltd.. "Ecologists See The Primeval Wood For The Trees." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 27 January 2005. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/01/050126113018.htm>.
Blackwell Publishing Ltd.. (2005, January 27). Ecologists See The Primeval Wood For The Trees. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 28, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/01/050126113018.htm
Blackwell Publishing Ltd.. "Ecologists See The Primeval Wood For The Trees." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/01/050126113018.htm (accessed July 28, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Monday, July 28, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating

Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating

AP (July 28, 2014) — Classes are being offered nationwide to encourage African Americans to learn about cooking fresh foods based on traditional African cuisine. The program is trying to combat obesity, heart disease and other ailments often linked to diet. (July 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge from Nest

Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge from Nest

AP (July 27, 2014) — A live-streaming webcam catches loggerhead sea turtle hatchlings emerging from a nest in the Florida Keys. (July 27) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Russia Saves Gecko Sex Satellite, Media Has Some Fun With It

Russia Saves Gecko Sex Satellite, Media Has Some Fun With It

Newsy (July 27, 2014) — The satellite is back under ground control after a tense few days, but with a gecko sex experiment on board, the media just couldn't help themselves. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Trees Could Save More Than 850 Lives Each Year

Trees Could Save More Than 850 Lives Each Year

Newsy (July 27, 2014) — A national study conducted by the USDA Forest Service found that trees collectively save more than 850 lives on an annual basis. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins