Pollen analyses provide an indication of the abundance of different plants at different points in history and can therefore be used to identify changes in vegetation over time. The study of pollen, known as palynology, first emerged 100 years ago and has developed greatly in the time since then. As modelling techniques have improved, it has been possible to greatly increase our understanding of how subfossil pollen percentages relate to patterns of vegetation cover. Ralph Fyfe provides an introduction to palynology and explains what the pollen record can tell us about the nature of historic landscapes in the British Isles.
The identification of stable ‘baseline’ states of communities or organisms is an attractive idea to those engaged in conservation efforts. These may provide targets against which progress can be measured, or models for restoration practice (Harris et al. 2006). Pollen has been described as the most useful and ubiquitous tool for reconstructing our past vegetation (Roberts 2014) and can offer historical perspectives that are impossible to obtain from detailed ecological recording.