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Constraining the deforestation history of Europe : Evaluation of historical land use scenarios with pollen-based land cover reconstructions

  • Jed O. Kaplan
  • Kristen M. Krumhardt
  • Marie José Gaillard
  • Shinya Sugita
  • Anna Kari Trondman
  • Ralph M. Fyfe
  • Laurent Marquer
  • Florence Mazier
  • Anne Birgitte Nielsen
Publishing year: 2017-12-01
Language: English
Publication/Series: Land
Volume: 6
Issue: 4
Document type: Journal article
Publisher: MDPI AG

Abstract english

Anthropogenic land cover change (ALCC) is the most important transformation of the Earth system that occurred in the preindustrial Holocene, with implications for carbon, water and sediment cycles, biodiversity and the provision of ecosystem services and regional and global climate. For example, anthropogenic deforestation in preindustrial Eurasia may have led to feedbacks to the climate system: both biogeophysical, regionally amplifying winter cold and summer warm temperatures, and biogeochemical, stabilizing atmospheric CO
concentrations and thus influencing global climate. Quantification of these effects is difficult, however, because scenarios of anthropogenic land cover change over the Holocene vary widely, with increasing disagreement back in time. Because land cover change had such widespread ramifications for the Earth system, it is essential to assess current ALCC scenarios in light of observations and provide guidance on which models are most realistic. Here, we perform a systematic evaluation of two widely-used ALCC scenarios (KK10 and HYDE3.1) in northern and part of central Europe using an independent, pollen-based reconstruction of Holocene land cover (REVEALS). Considering that ALCC in Europe primarily resulted in deforestation,we comparemodeled land usewith the cover of non-forest vegetation inferred from the pollen data. Though neither land cover change scenario matches the pollen-based reconstructions precisely, KK10 correlates well with REVEALS at the country scale, while HYDE systematically underestimates land use with increasing magnitude with time in the past. Discrepancies between modeled and reconstructed land use are caused by a number of factors, including assumptions of per-capita land use and socio-cultural factors that cannot be predicted on the basis of the characteristics of the physical environment, including dietary preferences, long-distance trade, the location of urban areas and social organization.


  • Physical Geography
  • Climate Research
  • Environmental Sciences related to Agriculture and Land-use
  • Environmental history
  • Human-environment interactions
  • Land use
  • Paleoecology


  • ISSN: 2073-445X
Anne Birgitte Nielsen
E-mail: anne_birgitte [dot] nielsen [at] geol [dot] lu [dot] se

Senior lecturer

Quaternary Sciences

+46 46 222 39 48


Sölvegatan 12, Lund


Department of Physical Geography and Ecosystem Science
Lund University
Sölvegatan 12
S-223 62 Lund

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