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A new SNF grant for ARVE (GR-KAP)

Professor Jed Kaplan and his group were successful in getting a SNF grant (funding for a PhD) for a project entitled "The MACCHIA project 'Reconstructing human induced land-cover change during the Holocene"


The land cover of the Mediterranean region is thought to have undergone considerable transformation in the 10,000 years since the last Ice Age, but the cause, extent and impact of this transformation is poorly known. The MACCHIA project is a new SNF funded program that will attempt to answer a long standing scientific question; How has land cover changed in the Mediterranean, and what has this meant for both climate and society since the establishment of civilization?  

The Mediterranean region has a long history of land exploitation for agriculture, fuel and construction going back through the Classical Roman and Greek periods to some of the Worlds earliest complex societies over 6000 years ago. Overprinted on these human impacts are also natural climatic changes that have also resulted in changes in forest composition and distribution. The relative role of these natural and human factors in land cover change remains a source of debate, but is critical in understanding the long-term stability and sustainability of the natural landscape, and the development and impact of early human societies prior to the Industrial revolution. Some of the Worlds earliest environmental problems are thought to have occurred in the Mediterranean as a direct result of deforestation and erosion due to human action. There is also an increasing awareness of how humans may also have been able to change the climate itself through land cover change, as a result of biophysical and biogeochemical feedbacks to the atmosphere.

The MACCHIA project will provide the first comprehensive attempt to reconstruct pre-historical land cover change throughout the Mediterranean. This will be achieved using a new and novel technique that links a traditional pollen-based approach with land suitability and dynamic vegetation modelling. Pollen preserved in lake and bog sediments provides a unique source of information on past land cover change, but only for the immediate region of the lake site. Suitable sites are widely scattered however, and many are remote from the fertile and well-drained lowlands where early farming and land clearance was most likely concentrated. The MACCHIA project will overcome these problems by using a modeling approach to infer the land cover between the pollen sites, taking into account changing climate and soils, as well as the likely intensity of human impact. The resulting detailed maps of land cover change will allow us for the first time to directly quantify the role of land cover change in human history, and in relation to climate feedbacks.

Posted by Marie Sudki on Monday 26 April 2010 at 14:13