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Journal Articles Science Advances Year : 2023

Substantial light woodland and open vegetation characterized the temperate forest biome before Homo sapiens

1 Center for Biodiversity Dynamics in a Changing World (BIOCHANGE) Section for Ecoinformatics & Biodiversity, Department of Biology Aarhus University
2 GEODE - Géographie de l'environnement
3 Aarhus University [Aarhus]
4 Plymouth University
5 CEREGE - Centre européen de recherche et d'enseignement des géosciences de l'environnement
6 Universiteit Leiden = Leiden University
7 Department of Geology and Geomorphology, University of Łódź, Narutowicza 88, 90-139 Łódź, Poland
8 Faculty of Mechanical and Engineering Production
9 Department of Geography, University of Cambridge, Cambridge CB2 3EN, UK.
10 Institute of Geography of RAS
11 Skane University Hospital [Lund]
12 IMBE - Institut méditerranéen de biodiversité et d'écologie marine et continentale
13 Ontario Geological Survey, 933 Ramsey Lake Road, Sudbury, ON P3E 6B5, Canada
14 Instituto Pirenaico de Ecología, IPE–CSIC, Avda/Montañana 1005, 50059 Zaragoza, Spain
15 Polish Geological Institute, National Research Institute, Carpathian Branch
16 Polish Geological Institute – National Research Institute, Marine Geology Branch, ul. Kościerska 5, 80-328 Gdańsk, Poland
17 Climate Change Ecology Research Unit, Faculty of Geographical and Geological Sciences, Adam Mickiewicz University Poznań, Bogumiła Krygowskiego 10, Poznań 61-680, Poland
18 CU - Charles University [Prague]
19 UNIROMA - Università degli Studi di Roma "La Sapienza" = Sapienza University [Rome]
20 Laboratory of Paleobotany, Department of Stratigraphical Geology, Institute of Geological Sciences, University of Wrocław
21 Department of Geography and Environment, School of Geosciences, University of Aberdeen, UK.
22 Department of Geography, Royal Holloway University of London, Egham, UK
23 Faculty of Natural Sciences, University of Silesia, Będzińska 60, 41-200 Sosnowiec, Poland
24 Faculty of Earth Sciences and Spatial Management, Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń, Lwowska 1, 87-100 Toruń, Poland
25 Maria Curie-Sklodowska University, Institute of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Al. Krasnicka 2 d, 20-718 Lublin, Poland.
26 Department of Physical Geography and Quaternary Geology, Stockholm University, SE-106 91 Stockholm, Sweden.
27 Department of Geosciences and Geography, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
28 Institute of Plant Sciences and Oechger Centre for Climate Change Research, University of Bern, Altenbergrain 21, 3013 Bern, Switzerland
29 TNO, Geological Survey of the Netherlands, Postbus 80015, 3508 TA, Utrecht, Netherlands
30 Institute for Environmental Studies, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Amsterdam, Netherlands
31 Nature Research Centre, Institute of Geology and Geography, Akademijos 2, LT-08412 Vilnius, Lithuania.
32 Landesamt für Bergbau, Geologie und Rohstoffe, Inselstraße 26, 03046 Cottbus, Germany
33 Leuphana University Lüneburg, Institute of Ecology, Lüneburg, Germany
34 Polish Geological Institute, 00-975 Warsaw, Poland
Florence Mazier
Signe Normand
Ralph Fyfe
Olga Borisova
Anna Brostrom
Petr Kuneš
Per Möller


The extent of vegetation openness in past European landscapes is widely debated. In particular, the temperate forest biome has traditionally been defined as dense, closed-canopy forest; however, some argue that large herbivores maintained greater openness or even wood-pasture conditions. Here, we address this question for the Last Interglacial period (129,000–116,000 years ago), before Homo sapiens –linked megafauna declines and anthropogenic landscape transformation. We applied the vegetation reconstruction method REVEALS to 96 Last Interglacial pollen records. We found that light woodland and open vegetation represented, on average, more than 50% cover during this period. The degree of openness was highly variable and only partially linked to climatic factors, indicating the importance of natural disturbance regimes. Our results show that the temperate forest biome was historically heterogeneous rather than uniformly dense, which is consistent with the dependency of much of contemporary European biodiversity on open vegetation and light woodland.
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hal-04284426 , version 1 (17-11-2023)





Elena Pearce, Florence Mazier, Signe Normand, Ralph Fyfe, Valerie Andrieu, et al.. Substantial light woodland and open vegetation characterized the temperate forest biome before Homo sapiens. Science Advances , 2023, 9 (45), pp.1-14. ⟨10.1126/sciadv.adi9135⟩. ⟨hal-04284426⟩
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