Can we characterise 'openness' in the Holocene palaeoenvironmental record? Modern analogue studies of insect faunas and pollen spectra from Dunham Massey deer park and Epping Foresty England

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


External organisations

  • Queen's University, Belfast
  • University of Hull


This paper examines the degree to which tree-associated Coleoptera (beetles) and pollen could be used to predict the degree of 'openness' in woodland. The results from two modern insect and pollen analogue studies from ponds at Dunham Massey, Cheshire and Epping Forest Greater London are presented. We explore the reliability of modern pollen rain and sub-fossil beetle assemblages to represent varying degrees of canopy cover for up to 1000 m from a sampling site. Modern woodland canopy structure around the study sites has been assessed using GIS-based mapping at increasing radial distances as an independent check on the modern insect and pollen data sets. These preliminary results suggest that it is possible to use tree-associated Coleoptera to assess the degree of local vegetation openness. In addition, it appears that insect remains may indicate the relative intensity of land use by grazing animals. Our results also suggest most insects are collected from within a 100-200 m radius of the sampling site. The pollen results suggest that local vegetation and density of woodland in the immediate area of the sampling site can have a strong role in determining the pollen signal.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)215-229
Number of pages15
JournalThe Holocene
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2010


  • modern analogues, Vera hypothesis, insect death assemblages, Epping Forest, Dunham Massey, formation processes, actualistic study, Woodland structure