Fossil pollen and spores in paleoecology

Mander, L. and Punyasena, S. W. (2018). Fossil pollen and spores in paleoecology. In: Croft, D. A.; Simpson, S. W. and Su, D. F. eds. Methods in Paleoecology: Reconstructing Cenozoic Terrestrial Environments & Ecological Communities. Vertebrate Paleobiology & Paleoanthropology. Springer, pp. 215–234.



The discipline of paleoecology is a multidisciplinary field that uses geological and biological evidence to investigate the past occurrence, distribution and abundance of species and populations on timescales ranging from hundreds to hundreds of millions of years. In this way, paleoecology is broadly concerned with the ecology of the past. In this article, we discuss how paleoecological data are derived from assemblages of fossil pollen and spores, which are dispersed by plants as part of their life cycles, and how this material can be used to reconstruct paleoenvironments. We outline how pollen and spores can be analyzed and classified, and explore the potential strengths and weaknesses of paleoecological data, before considering technological and methodological developments that may play a role in the future development of this discipline.

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