Palaeoecological studies are yielding fresh insights into slow forest ecosystem processes that are rarely observed using standard ecological methods, yet have major impacts on ecosystem function. Regional pollen data describe the broad features of the regional spread of trees but yield few insights into the processes of stand invasion and the facilitating role of disturbance. Pollen and charcoal data from small forest hollows are used to complement regional data in the study of the spread of Picea abies and Fagus sylvatica into southern Scandinavia during the last 4000 years. P. abies spread as a migrating front and preferentially invaded successional Betula stands, which had become particularly wide-spread in the region during the last 1000 years as a result of human activity. The spread of P. abies also closely tracked the changing area of suitable regional climate. The spread of F. sylvatica was more directly linked to anthropogenic activities and disturbance by fire prior to stand establishment. F. sylvatica preferentially invaded rich deciduous stand types that had declined in abundance during the last 2000 years. A recent range reduction of F. sylvatica can also be ascribed to human activity. The stand-scale palaeoecological data show how site conditions and disturbance are more important rate-limiting factors for F. sylvatica than for P. abies and help explain why F. sylvatica spread shows a patchy dynamic rather than the smoother migrating front of P. abies.
- Programområde 5: Natur og klima