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Surface pollen-vegetation relationships on the Atlantic seaboard: South Uist, Scotland

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Studies of modern pollen rain from remote islands have raised a number of interesting issues concerning the spatial precision of present-day pollen spectra in relation to their parent plant community types. This paper examines the relationships and degree of correlation between a sequence of contemporary vegetation types, environments and their associated surface pollen spectra from a transect across the island of South Uist in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland. Paired data on both contemporary vegetation and associated surface pollen assemblages have been collected and analysed using methods of numerical classification and ordination. In general terms, the modern pollen rain on South Uist reflects the major changes in vegetation pattern and the major community types fairly closely. The major boundary between the alkaline machair sand dune communities and the various acidic upland vegetation types is particularly clear. However, both variability in the vegetation and the effects of the strong prevailing westerly and south-westerly winds tend to blur the boundaries of the various communities within each of these larger categories. On average 86.6% of the palynomorphs come from in-community quadrat sources, while only 1.3% are from off-island sources. The limited present-day tree distribution on the transect is discussed in the context of the more widespread distribution of arboreal pollen. Overall, there is a strong numerical correspondence between vegetation, pollen and environmental variables. The various problems inherent in examining surface pollen spectra are reviewed.
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Keywords: Modern pollen; environmental gradients; island palynology; machair; multivariate analysis; vegetation

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Archaeology and Prehistory, University of Sheffield, Northgate House, West Street, Sheffield, Yorkshire, S1 4ET, U.K., 2: School of Conservation Science, Bournemouth University, Poole, Dorset, U.K., 3: Department of Geographical Sciences, University of Plymouth, Drake Circus, Plymouth, Devon, PL4 8AA, U.K., 4: Department of Geography, University of Aberdeen, Elphinstone Rd., Aberdeen, AB24 3UF, U.K., 5: Institute of Biological Sciences, University of Wales Aberystwyth, Penglais, Aberystwyth, Ceredigion, Wales, SY23 3DA, U.K.

Publication date: 2000-03-01

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