Long-term development of a cultural landscape: the origins and dynamics of lowland heathland in southern England

Groves, Jonathon, Waller, Martyn, Grant, Michael and Schofield, Ed (2012) Long-term development of a cultural landscape: the origins and dynamics of lowland heathland in southern England. Vegetation History and Archaeobotany, 21(6), pp. 453-470. ISSN (print) 0939-6314

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The lowland heathlands of southern England comprise ca. 14 % of the total area of this habitat in Europe yet their history is poorly understood. This paper presents the first detailed palaeoecological evidence (combining palynological, microscopic charcoal and radiocarbon data) relating to the origin and long-term dynamics of heathland vegetation in southern England. Valley peat sites, situated on the Lower Greensand Group (coarse-grained sandstones) at Conford (Hampshire) and Hurston Warren (West Sussex) have been investigated. The sequence from Conford indicates the unusually late survival of Pinus sylvestris (to as late as ca. 6050 cal. B.P.) in southern England. This is attributed to edaphic factors and, after ca. 7050 cal. B.P., to frequent fires. After intervening phases of dominance by deciduous woodland, heathland vegetation became established in the proximity of both sites in the Late Bronze Age (ca. 3000 cal. B.P.) with increases in indicators of grazing and burning demonstrating an association between the development of heathland and human activity. Thereafter, the pollen and charcoal records show that the vegetation remained in a dynamic state as the scale and nature of human activity varied through time. Major expansions in the extent of heathland occurred relatively recently; after ca. 1450 cal. B.P. at Hurston Warren and after ca. 850 cal. B.P. at Conford. A review of the palaeoecological evidence suggests that the most intense use and greatest coverage of heathland in southern England probably occurred during the medieval to post-medieval periods.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: This work was supported by Natural Environment Research Council [grant numbers No.1140.1005, 1168.0406 & 1090.1004].
Uncontrolled Keywords: pollen analysis, lowland heath, human impact, Pinus, Southern England, microscopic charcoal
Research Area: Archaeology
Geography and environmental studies
Faculty, School or Research Centre: Faculty of Science, Engineering and Computing (until 2017) > Centre for Earth and Environmental Science Research
Depositing User: Profile Martyn Waller
Date Deposited: 31 Oct 2012 11:15
Last Modified: 26 Feb 2013 10:54
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00334-012-0372-0
URI: http://eprints.kingston.ac.uk/id/eprint/23745

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