Palaeoecology, Environment And ClimatE (PEACE)

Our research focuses on understanding past short- to long-term interactions between the environment, human activities and climate. This is necessary to explain the present conditions and help project the future. Our time perspective is the Holocene (the current warm period, i.e. last 11 500 years).

Our research

For a better environment: the past is the key to the present and the future

The research field of PEACE is palaeoecology (ecology in the past, study of the interaction between the Earth environment, climate and human activities). PEACE focuses on studies of past terrestrial environment (including lakes and bogs) to understand the present and predict the future. The aim is to describe and explain past long- to short-term environmental changes, their relationships, and processes involved.

We study primarily past changes in natural (climate-induced) and human-induced landscape, vegetation, fire regimes, floristic and faunistic diversity, and climate. The time-period we concentrate on is the Holocene (last 11500 years). We also work with Quaternary interstadials and the latest Interglacial (Eem). Our study regions are very diverse in terms of size, geographical location, climate, vegetation and land use. Some studies have a sub-continental focus such as southern Sweden, Kenya and Cameroon (eastern and western Africa), and southeastern India. Other research projects have a continental or hemispheric focus (Europe, China, the Northern Hemisphere North of 40˚) to global perspective (PAGES LandCover6k working group). Our methods include analyses of pollen-, plant macrofossil (seeds, fruits, leaves and other plant remains), charcoal, and insect (beetles in particular). We use models of the relationship between pollen and vegetation, and between beetles and climate to reconstruct vegetation and climate in quantitative terms (cover of plant per unit area; winter and summer temperatures).

We collaborate with vegetation and climate modellers to study the complex forcings and feedbacks between land-cover on Earth and climate. These studies are necessary to improve our understanding of the climate-mitigation potential of landscape management. Deforestation or afforestation can either increase or decrease (mitigate) climate warming depending on the season and the geographical location. We work together with archaeologists to study past land-use (agriculture, crop cultivation, grazing) and its long-term impact on terrestrial vegetation, flora, and fauna diversity. We also interact with actors in nature conservation by studying modern floristic and faunistic diversity and provide information on the historical and prehistorical background to the modern conditions. This information helps to set up strategies for landscape management that will preserve and favour high biodiversity in the future.


  • PAGES LandCover6k
  • VR LandClim II
  • FHL-CNRC LandCover China
  • C3A LandCover Cameroon
  • REAL