What we do
Our Tropical Palaeoecology Research Group seeks to understand the long-term interactions between climate change, fire, human land use, and vegetation across tropical South America. We do this by using a range of palaeoenvironmental proxies from lake/bog sediments and soils (in particular, pollen, charcoal and phytoliths), and are interested in environmental changes spanning recent millennia, the Holocene, and Quaternary glacial-interglacial cycles. This palaeo perspective can provide important insights into ecosystem resilience/fragility, biogeochemical cycling, and conservation policy, especially in the context of future climate change and human land use. We have a well-equipped tropical palaeoecology laboratory with a modern pollen reference collection of > 2000 species from South American tropical rainforest, dry forest and savanna ecosystems.
Where we do it
Long-term forest-savanna dynamics in Amazonian Bolivia has been the focus of our research for many years, although recent projects have expanded our geographic scope across Brazil – throughout the Amazon basin, the coastal Atlantic Forest, and the southern Brazilian Araucaria (monkey-puzzle) forests.
Who we work with
Because a cross-disciplinary approach is needed to tackle many of our research questions, we have forged close collaborative links with a broad spectrum of scientists, in particular archaeologists and botanists, but also GIS/remote-sensers, modellers, diatomists, and soil scientists/geochemists. We therefore have strong links with a range of institutions, not just across the UK (e.g. Universities of Exeter, Swansea, and Nottingham), but around the world; e.g. University of Utah (USA), Noel Kempff Mercado Natural History Museum (Bolivia) and the Federal University of Para and University of Sao Paulo (Brazil). We are always open for new collaborative opportunities, so please contact us if interested.
Who funds our work
Our recent and ongoing research has been supported by the University of Reading, NERC, AHRC, The Leverhulme Trust, National Geographic, FAPESP (Sao Paulo state, Brazil), and CNPq ‘Science Without Borders’ programme (Brazil).
Members of the group, from left to right: Top: Prof Frank Mayle, Dr John Carson; Bottom: Dr Macarena L. Cárdenas, Dr Joy Singarayer, Heather Plumpton and Richard Smith.