Palaeoecology - the ecology of past times.

Ecology is the study of the interconnected web of the natural world and embodies all energy and resource inputs and outputs. Theoretically there is only one ecosystem, the global or even universal ecosystem. However we often break the environment being studied up into smaller, more manageable ecosystems, maybe a desert, a bog, a pond or lake, a mountain range. This becomes more problematical in determining the edges of such ranges.

A lot of the focus of living organisms in palaeoecology is on plant life – plants don’t move like animals, they are more indicative of the long term environmental conditions and as such successful plant growth is a proxy for the environment. They shed parts during their lifetime – leaves, seeds, pollen or spores, branches – which may be incorporated into sediments as fossils.

There is a fundamental difference between ecology and palaeoecology, though ecological analysis and understanding underpins them both. That difference is time.

Ecology embodies the study of the earth systems of now, environments and populations, behaviour and habits that can be observed and measured. However change, particularly slower rates of change – the growth of trees, the spread of populations, the accumulation or erosion of sediments, changes in weather patterns and climate – is harder to measure, requiring long time series of observations. Even with these analysis requires the assumption of the direction of change. Increasingly warmer weather patterns over a number of years may represent a change in climate; it may equally represent fluctuations within accepted limits and just be an aberration. A fourth year of cold weather may alter the conclusion – and the longer the time series of observations, the more certain of the direction of change.

In palaeoecology direct observation of living systems is severely restricted to the small part of the environment that has been preserved, either as fossil remains of living organisms, sedimentary structures, isotopic proxies for climate or atmospheric conditions. But the changes that occurred over long periods can be observed from these clues, and predictions that are so hard in ecology are laid bare to view in palaeoecology.

The items of most particular interest, as well as the 20 most recent changes to this website, are listed below in separate tabs.

  • Feb 2021 - Added pollen pages and images.
  • Feb 2021 - Added 1m photogrammetry of Driminidy Lough.See here.
  • Feb 2021 - Rewrote landing page.
  • Jan 2021 - Ringforts and Townlands, pages and maps.See here
  • Jan 2021 - Geological Formations and Environments of deposition.See here
  • Dec 2020 - Added 1m and 5m photogrammetry of Ruagagh Valley.See here.
  • Dec 2020 - Proxies with start of ref collection photos.See here
  • Nov 2020 - Added account of IQUA field trip. See here.
  • Oct 2020 - IQUA Field Trip to West Cork - map. See here.
  • March 2021 - Upgraded microscope.
  • February 2021 - Managed to obtain silicone oil. In the end it was simple.
  • February 2021 - Engaged in OLS3 training.
  • Dec 2020 to Feb 2021 - Obtained DSM for certain areas from BlueSky and integrated them into the interactive maps. See here... and here.
  • January 2021 - Added lightbox functionality - magnific-popup - to image pages. See proxies
  • October 2020 - Integrated interactive maps using OpenLayers, QGIS and QGIS2Web.
  • March 2021 - Reference Pollen images and pages are being compiled
  • March 2021 - A page summarising existing and past palaeoecological research sites is being researched and written
  • March 2021 - Examination of the lowest levels from the Three Lakes Core is ongoing and a summary will be posted as a separate page