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Dr Clear explores forest dynamics in central Europe

Geography field trip Tuesday 3 October 2017

Dr Jennifer Clear from the Department of Geography and Environmental Science led a field trip with colleagues from five nationalities (UK, USA, Czech Republic, Netherlands and Finland) to the Tatra Mountains, Slovakia. The purpose of the field trip was to recover a sediment record long enough to reconstruct past forest disturbance dynamics. The project is part of a three-year Czech GACR research grant, which has recovered sediment from five lakes and eight forest hollows.

Dr Clear said: “The Montane spruce forests of central Europe are one of the last primeval forests and are also of high economic value. In recent decades, bark beetle attacks have destroyed vast areas of forest and often occur after a local windstorm that weaken trees making them susceptible to bark beetle attack. Our key research questions are: How frequent do bark beetle attacks occur in the past? Are bark beetle attacks becoming more frequent with climate change? And how, if and when will the forest recover from recent bark beetle attacks?” 

To answer these research questions, the sediment that has settled chronologically over thousands of years has to be recovered from peat deposits in lakes or forest hollows. The analyses that will be conducted on these sediment cores are: Pollen to reconstruct past vegetation type; Charcoal to look at past fire history; Beetle remains to reconstruct bark beetle attacks; and Chronomids to reconstruct climate history. The age of sediment will be estimated using radiocarbon (C 14) dating.

This is the third year that Dr Clear has led a field trip to the High Tatra Mountains during summertime and in all has led to the collected of more than 100m of sediment cores, which are currently being analysed in the UK and Czech Republic by a team of international researchers. If you are interested to hear more about this project or be informed future publications, you can email Dr Clear at clearj@hope.ac.uk

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