Volcanic impacts on the Holocene vegetation history of Britain and Ireland? A review and meta-analysis of the pollen evidence

Richard J. Payne, Kevin J. Edwards, Jeff J. Blackford

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Volcanic ash layers show that the products of Icelandic volcanism reached Britain and Ireland many times during the Holocene. Historical records suggest that at least one eruption, that of Laki in a.d. 1783, was associated with impacts on vegetation. These results raise the question: did Icelandic volcanism affect the Holocene vegetation history of Britain and Ireland? Several studies have used pollen data to address this issue but no clear consensus has been reached. We re-analyse the palynological data using constrained ordination with various representations of potential volcanic impacts. We find that the palynological evidence for volcanic impacts on vegetation is weak but suggest that this is a case of absence of evidence and is not necessarily evidence of absence of impact. To increase the chances of identifying volcanic impacts, future studies need to maximise temporal resolution, replicate results, and investigate a greater number of tephras in a broader range of locations, including more studies from lake sediments.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)153-164
Number of pages12
JournalVegetation History and Archaeobotany
Issue number2
Early online date15 Apr 2012
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2013



  • tephra
  • hekla
  • volcanic impacts
  • palyngology
  • tephropalyngology
  • ordination

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