EPD Newsletter 9 April 1999

Editors: S. Hicks, C. Tzedakis, B. van Geel and R. Cheddadi

Editorial: Sheila Hicks

The annual meeting of the EPD Executive Committee (EC) and Advisory Board (AB) was held in Arles, France 19-20th March, 1999. As has now become common practice, this Newsletter is largely a report of the matters which were discussed at that meeting. This year the meeting itself was preceded by two EPD related events, a two-day training course on the use of the data base, and a one-day Symposium at which a series of oral presentations were given on recent advances in palaeoecology.

The training course took place in Arles and was organized by the EPD Data Manager, Rachid Cheddadi, with the assistance of John Keltner from the World Data Centre-A and Simon Brewer, currently engaged as a PhD on a project involving the EPD. The training course was attended by six people from Finland, Slovenia, Poland and The Netherlands. Rachid Cheddadi produced a very useful course booklet which covers the series of queries required to produce a specified data distribution map. This course book is available upon request at the EPD (see address above).

The Symposium, entitled "Recent advances in Palaeoecology" (the programme for which is given following this editorial) was held at the University of Marseille and was attended by students from that university together with visiting palaeoecologists. The very wide range of topics presented served to emphasize the importance of a multi-disciplinary approach to investigating palaeoecological problems, and the growing emphasis on high temporal resolution detailed analyses on the one hand, and long sequences which cover several climate cycles on the other.

The EPD is now at a critical turning point. The EU research project that has supported the EPD over the last three years has now run its course and the Final Technical Report will be submitted at the end of April (see report below). An application which was submitted to the ESF for further funding has so far received no response. At present, therefore, there is no financial support for the employment of the database manager nor for further Executive Committee and Advisory Board meetings. Rachid Cheddadi will continue with database management but is unable to devote more than 10% of his time to such duties. This means that assistance is desperately needed in both gathering additional data and generally running of the database. Some help in terms of manpower has been arranged until November 1999 and alternative sources of finance are being actively sought.


Thursday 18th March 1999

Faculté de Saint Jérôme, Salle des Actes

Sheila Hicks (Oulu)

Pollen influx from the Arctic fring: indicators of both tree density and climate

Tiiu Koff (Tallin)

Pollen concentration variations in lake sediments from Estonia

Thomas Litt (Bonn) :

Bio- and chronostratigraphical problems of the late glacial in NW

Germany based on annually laminated sediments.

Bas Van Geel (Amsterdam):

Evidence for solar forcing of climate change based on paleo-records

Eric Grimm (Sprinfield, Il.)

Long Records of Vegetation and Climate Change from Florida and

Correspondence with North Atlantic Climate Events

Spassimir Tonkov (Sofia):

Recent progress in palaeoecology of mountain lakes in Bulgaria.

Ramon Pérez i Obiol (Barcelona)

Ariduseuromed project: palynological sequences in Mediterranean areas of Spain

Chronis Tzedakis (Cambridge)

Vegetation changes during the last interglacial in Greece

Cesare Ravazzi and Sabina Rossi (Milan)

The long varved interval of the Pianico succession in the Lombardian prealps: stratigraphy and pollen diagram

Maurice Reille (Marseille)

A pollen record of the last five climatic cycles in France

The EU IVth Framework Programme Contract for the EPD

Brian Huntley

For the past three years the continued development of the EPD has been made possible primarily through the financial support provided by EC contract ENV4-CT95-0120 that commenced in February 1996. As this contract comes to an end on 30th April 1999, and the partners in the contract make their final report to the EC upon the progress made towards the targets identified in the Work Programme when the contract commenced, it is appropriate to provide a summary of those achievements for readers of the Newsletter.

We are happy to be able to report that all of the milestones identified in the contract Work Programme have been attained, including the issuing of bi-annual updates of the EPD on disk and on the ftp servers. The gaps identified in the spatial cover of compiled data have been addressed and the relevant milestones achieved. The three partners in the contract have each completed their components of the Work Programme under the guidance of the Advisory Board.

More specifically, the key deliverable identified in the Work Programme was the compilation of further data, with a target of 800 sites in the database by the end of the contract. This target has been surpassed – as is reported elsewhere in this Newsletter there are now >870 sites in the database and that number continues to grow. Furthermore, following a decision by the Advisory Board at its 1996 meeting in Krakow, all of the unrestricted components of the EPD are now available via the www from either Medias France, in Toulouse, or the World Data Center–A, in Boulder.

A second deliverable identified was the development of software to facilitate the handling and analysis of the data in the EPD; here too the progress has been excellent and Joel Guiot in particular, in collaboration with various others, has produced various new software tools (contact: joel.guiot@lbhp.u-3mrs.fr).

Amongst the other objectives identified in the contract was the maintenance of the link with the North American Pollen Database; this has been achieved, and has included participation in new developments towards a Global Pollen Database with new regional pollen databases established in Africa, Latin America, China, Japan, Siberia, and the Pacific region. George Jacobson continues to represent the NAPD on the EPD Advisory Board, whilst both Eric Grimm and John Keltner have attended Advisory Board meetings, to which they have made invaluable contributions. The Advisory Board has continued their active participation in the direction and development of the EPD, meeting annually in Krakow (1996), Durham (1997), Bonn (1998) and Arles (1999). As some former AB members have reached the end of their terms of office and stepped down, new members have been elected and begun to contribute to the work of the AB.

As reported elsewhere in this Newsletter, the working group on the harmonisation of pollen nomenclature has also met regularly throughout the period of the contract and has provided essential advice on nomenclature and systematics.

In summary, the project has been successful in achieving its targets, and at the end of the project the EPD has reached a stage of development where, as discussed elsewhere in this Newsletter, it is able to provide the foundation for a variety of research projects. If the database is to continue to grow and develop, however, and to provide the support for future research, then there is an urgent need to identify further funding for the maintenance of compilation and related activities. The Executive Committee and the Advisory Board have discussed the future funding options at their most recent meeting and various potential sources of funding have been identified and will be pursued.

The present status of the EPD

Rachid Cheddadi

During the past year, 70 new sites have been included in the database bringing the total to 874 sites (670 unrestricted, 204 restricted). Several sites (from Lithuania and Bulgaria) have become unrestricted during the last year according to the wish of their authors. The unrestricted data represent more than 3/4 of the EPD data. Following the directives in the EPD protocol, during April 1999, authors of restricted sites contributed to the EPD before 30 March 1996, are being contacted by the database manager. These contributors (30) of restricted data (132) are being informed that more than three years have elapsed since submitting their data and that unless they indicate within a defined period that they wish to continue with the restrictions, the data will become unrestricted.

An age/depth model was applied to most of the new sites. New chronologies have also been established for already existing pollen records. Thus, 483 sites have now chronologies. This means that almost half of the sites are still without one. One should stress that these chronologies are not unique and "cast in stone" in the database but can be changed/improved by users. The database structure is able to handle several chronologies with specific reference to the authors of each chronology, the control points selected and the interpolation method used to build the age/depth model …More records will be used in projects and more accurate will be the new chronologies.


André Lotter and Chronis Tzedakis

Due to financial restrictions, the EPD is no longer able to provide chronologies in calibrated radiocarbon years BP. Contributors are encouraged to provide together with the pollen data a calibrated radiocarbon chronology, stating explicitly the control points (including the assignment for the top sample) and the calibration software version used. Moreover, due to the same reasons any assessment of chronology for sites without an age-depth model has to be left to the potential EPD users until further funding is granted.

Pollen Nomenclature Workshop

Jacqueline van Leeuwen and André Lotter

The last meeting of the EPD working group on pollen nomenclature took place at the Geobotanical Institute of the University of Bern, Switzerland, between August 12 and 14, 1998. The workshop was organized by André Lotter and participants were Jacqueline van Leeuwen, Sylvia Peglar, Lucia Wick, and Rachid Cheddadi.

Pollen and spore nomenclature is not as standardized as it is for plant taxa. As a result, the same pollen or spore type may have different names in different published pollen diagrams (e.g., „Monolete spores" and „Filicinae" refer to the same morphological type). A standardisation of nomenclature is, however, needed when palynological results are to be compared over larger geographical areas. The task of the Pollen-Morphology Working Group is to hamonize and standardise the nomenclature on a European scale, thus providing the necessary background for integrating pollen data into the EPD. In the past the group came together for several workshops to set up a reference dictionary of pollen nomenclature. This work comprises several different steps. As, according to the protocol of the EPD, the data must contain the original taxonomic identification, the first step is to establish a name for each contributed name of pollen and spores that is valid for Europe as a whole (the so-called „accepted" name). The accepted names are marked in the data-base as synonyms to the contributed names. A reference is given for accepted names whereever possible. The second step is then to establish a hierarchy of accepted pollen and spore names, in which they are grouped in larger units (e.g., Anthemis-type, belongs to Compositae Subfam. Asteroideae). Such a hierarchy is essential if pollen diagrams that differ in taxonomic detail are to be compared. In a third step the accepted pollen taxa are then assigned to life-form groups such as „Trees", „Shrubs", „Herbs", „Aquatics", and others. Examples of these three steps are listed below.
Contributed and archived name in EPD Accepted name Literature of accepted name Higher pollen taxon Pollen group
Allium Allium-type Moore et al. 1991 Liliaceae-type Herb
Peucedanum Peucedanum palustre-type Punt & Clarke 1984 Umbelliferae Herb
Arctium Serratula-type Moore et al. 1991 Compositae Subfam. Asteroideae Herb
Quercus petraea Quercus robur-type Punt & Clarke 1984 Quercus Tree

Thanks to the initiative of Bas van Geel and Jacqueline van Leeuwen the EPD taxon list was also extended to include microfossils other than pollen and spores encountered in pollen slides. This newly revised taxon list has been implemented in EPD.

The Global Pollen Database GPD

Eric Grimm

The global pollen database (GPD) resides at the World Data Center-A for Paleoclimatology in Boulder and is mirrored at Medias-France in Toulouse. The GPD is available from the Web sites of both of these institutions. The North American Pollen Database is part of the GPD and no longer exists as a separate database. Once data are completed in the Tilia spreadsheets and forms, they are submitted directly to Boulder where they are incorporated into the GPD. The other pollen databases also follow this procedure. The present contributions to the GPD are as follows:

Number of sites in the GPD (excluding surface samples)
African Pollen Database
European Pollen Database
Indo-Pacific Pollen Database
Latin American Pollen Database
North American Pollen Database
Pollen Database for Siberian and Russian Far East

A backlog exists of 26 sites for the Indo-Pacific Pollen Database and about 20 sites for the Pollen Database for Siberian and Russian Far East. The non-restricted data from the EPD are slated for inclusion into the EPD.

Eric Grimm has submitted a proposal to the U.S. National Science Foundation for continued funding of the North American Pollen Database and for a workshop in Boulder to coordinate the Global Pollen Database. Andre Lotter and Rachid Cheddadi would represent the EPD at this meeting. The participants will address a number of common concerns for development of the global database, including taxonomic issues. Although all pollen taxa identified by analysts in the EPD are retained in the GPD, the taxonomic hierarchy for the global database is necessarily different from the EPD. Because of these modifications to the hierarchy, the EPD will remain available as a separate database with all of its taxonomic precision.

Resolving P_VARS Table Differences between the EPD and GPD/NAPD

John Keltner and Rachid Cheddadi

The following table describes the differences that have developed between the European Pollen Database and Global Pollen Database (GPD/NAPD) in the use of the P_VARS (database table storing the pollen variables) table:
Database Field Name
EPD Usage

(Variable Id)

Sequential number that uniquely identifies the pollen variable. (same as EPD)

(Accepted Variable Id)

Same as GPD/NAPD except that P_VARS contains no nomenclatural synonyms. For example, Poaceae is a synonym of Gramineae, according to Flora Europaea. Only Gramineae appear in P_VARS. Identifies the Var# of the pollen variable that is the accepted name for this variable. This allows for the recording of nomenclatural and other synonyms in P_VARS. For example, both Poaceae and Gramineae both appear in P_VARS, but Gramineae points to Poaceae as the accepted name. (Note that only accepted variables appear in the COUNTS table.)

(Variable Name)

Full name of the pollen variable as submited by the author. (same as EPD)

(Higher Variable Id)

The next higher pollen variable (taxon), defined on the basis of the pollen morphology. The next higher variable, defined on the basis of the plant (sporophyte) taxonomy.

(Morphological Higher Variable Id)

The limiting variable (taxon) for any hierarchical amalgamation. The next higher variable, defined on the basis of the pollen morphology.

The proposed resolution to P_VARS usage differences is to remove hierarchy information entirely from P_VARS, and place it in two new tables: HIERARCH and TAXLIMIT.
Table Name Field Name EPD P_VARS Equivalent GPD/NAPD P_VARS Equivalent
HIERARCH Var# Var# Var#
  HigherVar# HVar# HVar# + MHVar#
TAXLIMIT Var# Var#  
  LimitVar# MHVar#  

This resolution eliminates the different usage of table fields between the databases.

Reports on the status of the various regions covered by the EPD during the past year and predictions for the coming year.

The pattern of data contribution falls into several distinct categories:

  1. New data have been contributed but more is still available. This is the case with Poland (5 sites contributed this year but some 15 sites are potentially available), Switzerland and Spain. The French initiative to produce palaeovegetation maps has led to the activation of interest by a number of groups. This could potentially lead to several 10’s of sites being added in the next two years.
  2. New data are in the process of being contributed. This is the case with The Netherlands, Portugal and Germany. In the latter casedata has been collected in Bonn and is in Tilia format for the sites: Georgenfeld, Krumpa, Guelpe/Havel, Wachel/Beverstedt, Görbelmoos/Gilching, Holzmaar/Eifel, Meerfelder Maar/Eifel, Bindersee and Langer Filz. Data are available, but not yet in Tilia format for the sites: Tegelner See/Berlin, Wetterau, Rheinland and Ammersee.
  3. Data are available for contribution but these are old sites where the counts are on paper sheets and some organization is needed to get them into digital form. This is the case with Fennoscandia and Great Britain. It is noticeable that the coverage in the British Isles is already much denser than anywhere else and so the need for new sites is less acute. In the case of some Russian material the necessary computing facilities are lacking.
  4. New data are potentially available but have not yet been published or are waiting for 14C dates. This is the case with the Baltic States. In some cases the barrier here is a financial one, as in the case of Bulgaria.
  5. Data is known to exist but the relevant people need to be contacted and encouraged. This is the case with Austria, Italy, Slovakia, Slovenia, Romania and Greece.
PAGES and the European Pollen Data Base.

Frank Oldfield

One of the major changes in research mode in Environmental Sciences over the last ten years has been the shift towards data harmonization and compilation on a global basis. This is in response both to the opportunities afforded by increased computing power and to the needs imposed by the emerging research field of Global Change. Part of the remit of PAGES is to foster data sharing and management at a global level through the World Data Center (WDC-A) for Paleoclimatology. The value and effectiveness of such a global, multi-proxy data base rests on many kinds of effort and depends on success in several domains. In a field as specialised, complex and diverse as palynology, maintenance and enhancement of data quality depends on skilled evaluation. Reconciling differing levels of taxonomic resolution, regionally differentiated floras and taxonomic nomenclature calls for care, knowledge and a high level of responsibility. Ultimately, the quality of global data bases depends on this effort at the regional and specialist level. Data base development and management rests not only on expertise but on a sustained relationship of mutual trust among all participants, those who mainly contribute to, those who manage and those who most often use the growing data resource.This lends a cumulative value to both the data and human investments intrinsic in a growing data base. In all these respects, the European Pollen Data Base has been in the forefront of developments. It serves as an excellent example of what can be achieved through carefully focused effort and its success so far reinforces the need to recognise such initiatives as vital components of global change research that require sustained support.

Preparation of projects based on the EPD

Report by Bas van Geel and Sheila Hicks

It has been recommended that, especially in the case of bigger projects based on the EPD, users are encouraged to contact the EPD manager to discuss any scientific and technical problems crucial to the project. In the case that the EPD does not receive financial support from international funding bodies, users will be asked to include within their project budget some funds to cover EPD upkeep.

Development of multi-proxy databases

The topic of multi-proxy databases was discussed from two points of view:

  1. Is there a need for the EPD to be integrated into a multi-proxy database and under what format could this occur?
  2. Existing multi-proxy projects have, or are developing, databases. What should be the relationship between these and the EPD?
The present relationship between the EPD and the archival databases at WDC-A and Medias-France, was clarified and is summarised in Figure

From the EPD point of view (point 1) it has long been recognized that plant macrofossils and diatoms are frequently analysed from the same cores as pollen and so there is a loss of ecological information if these aspects are separated out into different databases.

It was noted, however, that to combine all this multi-proxy data from one core into a single database poses numerous practical difficulties including the need for many specialist areas of expertise. For this reason it was felt that each specialist database should remain separate but have the facility to be linked with others.

For the broader discussion on multi-proxy databases (point 2) the AB was joined by Dr. Francoise Gasse representing PAGES-PEPIII, Dr Steve Juggins representing the diatom database EDDI, Jean-Luc Boichard and Eliane Cubero-Castan representatives from Medias-France and Antti Huusko representing the EPMP database.

It was envisaged that pollen data assembled in individual multi-proxy project databases (eg PALICLAS) should be passed to the EPD for quality control before being entered in the GPD, rather than being passed directly to the GPD. The AB affirmed that it would be happy to participate in the development of multi-proxy databases, noting that such development is dependent on the formation of other project databases, such as macrofossil and fossil diatom databases. EPD data that are in the Global Pollen Database are becoming incorporated in the WDC-A’s developing Global Multi-Proxy Database, but the latter is not yet accessible via the Web.

Surface pollen samples in the EPD

Sheila Hicks

There is an increasing demand for the surface sample section of the EPD. This section has not yet been integrated into the EPD as it is available for downloading from the web. Since the collected data have different amounts of metadata a set of threshold criteria were reiterated which all samples should fulfil before they are made generally available. These are:


Highly desirable
Present composition of the EPD Executive Committee and Advisory Board

(The figure in parentheses indicates the year in which the person

comes up for re-election)

  1. Executive Committee
(Chairperson) (2005)

Jacques-Louis.de-Beaulieu@ lbhp.u-3mrs.fr

Brian.Huntley@ durham.ac.uk lotter@ sgi.unibe.ch
  1. Advisory Board
sheila.hicks@ oulu.fi pal-inst@ uni-bonn.de rhwb@geus.dk Paleo@glasnet.ru vangeel@ bio.uva.nl koff@ eco.edu.ee ramon.perez@cc.uab.es pct11@ cus.cam.ac.uk jacobson@ maine.edu bioml@monika.univ.gda.pl tonkov@biofac.uni-sofia.bg
  1. Database manager
rachid.cheddadi@ lbhp.u-3mrs.fr