Future Directions and Potentialities

There have been major advances in Quaternary paleoe-cology since the pioneering pollen-analytical studies by Lennart von Post (Figure 6) in Sweden in the early twentieth century. After the sophistication of pollen analysis byJohs Iversen, Knut FÅ“gri (Figure 7), and others in the 1940s-1970s, important advances in paleoecology have come from the developments of paleoceanography in the 1960s-1980s, paleolimnology in the 1980s-1990s, and a wealth of isotope and geochemical techniques in the last decade.

A major future development in paleoecology will come from recent advances in earth sciences. These involve stable-isotope analysis, organic geochemistry, and detection of molecular markers that will allow past environmental conditions to be inferred independent of

Lennart Von Post

Figure 6 Lennart von Post (1884-1950), a Swedish geologist who invented pollen analysis, the dominant technique in Quaternary terrestrial paleoecology.

E. J. Lennart von Post

Figure 6 Lennart von Post (1884-1950), a Swedish geologist who invented pollen analysis, the dominant technique in Quaternary terrestrial paleoecology.

biological proxies. To date, there have been few paleoecological studies that exploit these developments to explore links between independently derived records of environmental change, particularly climate change, and observed biotic changes. When this is done more fully, it will allow paleoecological research to focus directly on the nature of biotic response to environmental changes over a range of temporal and spatial scales, namely to study the ecology of the past. This will be a major breakthrough, as the geological record of fossils can then be used as an ecological observatory or laboratory for studying long-term ecological changes over timescales beyond direct ecological observations. As the paleoecological record is a unique record of biotic responses to a wide range of environmental changes, it can help predict biotic responses to future environmental change, a major concern of much ecological and conservation research today.

Ecology, conservation, and nature management are primarily concerned with the present and increasingly with the future. Paleoecology considers the past but can provide

Figure 7 (a) Knut Fagri (1909-2001), a Norwegian botanist and (b) Johs Iversen (1904-71), a Danish botanist. In the 1950s-1970s, Fagri and Iversen developed pollen analysis into a powerful paleoecological technique that is now being used to resolve critical questions in community, landscape, conservation, ecosystem, and global ecology.

a historical perspective to the present. With the ever-increasing quantity and quality of paleoecological data at a fine spatial and/or temporal resolution, there is great potential for close interactions between real-time ecolo-gists and Quaternary paleoecologists, as there is an enormous contribution that paleoecology can make to ecology. The paleoecological record contains many 'lessons from the past' about biotic responses to environmental change. With recent developments in paleoecology and earth sciences, it will soon be possible to read this record ecologically and to learn from these 'lessons' so as to improve our understanding of ecological dynamics over long timescales and to contribute to nature conservation and management policies for the future.

See a/so: Metacommunities; Microbial Ecology.

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