William Fletcher

William Fletcher


  • Reader in Physical Geography and Quaternary Science, Geography
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Personal profile


Postgraduate opportunities

If you are interested in pursuing a PhD in the fields of Palaeoecology, Palynology or Palaeoclimatology, particularly with a regional focus on Mediterranean, North African and other dryland environments, please do not hesitate to get in touch by email (will.fletcher@manchester.ac.uk). I am interested in supervising graduate student research in any of my areas of expertise. Informal inquiries by e-mail are welcome at any time.

Further information

Current administrative responsibilities

At the University of Manchester

  • Undergraduate Admissions Tutor for Geography
  • Academic Lead for Philanthropy for SEED

Wider professional service

  • Member of: APLF (Association des Palynologues de Langue Francaise), PALCOMM (INQUA commission on Palaeoclimate), INTIMATE (INTegration of Ice-core, Marine And TerrEstrial records), Quaternary Research Association (QRA), Royal Geographical Society, IUCN Comission on Ecosystem Management
  • Reviewer for: Quaternary Science Reviews, Geology, Journal of Quaternary Science, Journal of Biogeography, Paleoceanography, Climate Dynamics, Quaternary International, Climate of the Past, Palaeogeography Palaeoclimatology Palaeoecology, Journal of Archaeological Science, Progress in Physical Geography, Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology, Journal of African Earth Sciences.

Further information

Recent presentations

INQUA Congress Dublin (2019). Stable carbon isotope analysis on fossil Cedrus pollen shows climatic aridification in Morocco during the last 5000 years. B. Bell, W. Fletcher, H. Cornelissen, H. Grant, P. Ryan, C. Zielhofer.

INQUA Congress Dublin (2019). Decadal environmental change in the Marrakech High Atlas: Impacts of snow melt on alpine ecology during the last 500 years. B. Bell, W. Fletcher, P. Hughes presented:

INQUA Congress Dublin (2019). Multidecadal summer drought variability in Northwest Africa during the last 700 years: evidence for a circum-global oscillation in subtropical precipitation. W. Fletcher, K. Copes-Gerbitz, S. Harrison.

INQUA Congress Dublin (2019). Rising atmospheric CO2 concentrations: the overlooked factor promoting forest development in southwestern Europe across Termination I? S. Gomes, W. Fletcher, A. Stone, T. Rodrigues, D. Oliveira, M. Sanchez-Goñi, F. Abrantes,  F. Naughton.

Climate Change in Africa: Evidence, mechanisms and Impacts, Past and Present, Marrakesh, Morocco (2017). Timescales and drivers of Holocene environmental change in the Middle Atlas, Morocco: Insights from the Lake Sidi Ali palaeoecological record (Oral presentation: W. Fletcher, J. Campbell, S. Joannin, C. Zielhofer, S. Mischke, A. Mikdad).

MedPalyno, Barcelona, Spain (2017). Centennial-scale vegetation and fire dynamics in the Middle Atlas, Morocco during the last 12,000 years (Oral presentation: W. Fletcher, J. Campbell, S. Joannin).

MedPalyno, Barcelona, Spain (2017). Stable carbon isotope measurements on Cedrus atlantica pollen: first steps towards an independent drought stress proxy (Poster presentation: B. Bell, W. Fletcher, P. Ryan, H. Grant, R. Ilmen)

PAGES Open Science Meeting, Zaragoza, Spain (2017). Biotic  response  to  centennial-scale  climate  variability  in Northwest  Africa:  Were  there  Holocene  analogues  for current Cedrus atlantica dieback? (Oral presentation: W. Fletcher, J. Campbell, S. Joannin, P. Hughes, S. Mischke, C. Zielhofer)

PAGES Open Science Meeting, Zaragoza, Spain (2017). Millennial   shifts   in   Saharan   dust   supply across the decline of the African Humid Period (Co-authored oral presentation: C.   Zielhofer, W. Fletcher, H. von Suchodoletz, B. Schneider, K. Schepanski, A. Mikdad, S. Mischke)

PAGES Open Science Meeting, Zaragoza, Spain (2017). Asynchronous  patterns  of  Quaternary  disappearance of tree taxa from Southern Europe (Co-authored poster presentation: D.  Magri, F.  Di  Rita, J. Aranbarri , W. Fletcher, P. González Sampériz).

PAGES Open Science Meeting, Zaragoza, Spain (2017). Atlantic forcing of Western Mediterranean winter rain minima during the last 12,000 years (Co-authored oral presentation: C. Zielhofer, W. Fletcher, S. Mischke, M. De Batist, J. Campbell, S. Joannin, A. Junginger, B. Schneider, N.  El  Hamouti, A.  Mikdad, T.  Lauer).

PAGES Open Science Meeting, Zaragoza, Spain (2017). From the Mediterranean to the Caspian: palaeoclimate variability, environmental responses and human adaptive strategies (Session co-conveners: A. Moreno, V. Yanko-Hombach, W. Fletcher)

EGU General Assembly, Vienna, Austria (2016). Centennial-scale vegetation and climate changes in the Middle Atlas, Morocco: new insights from multi-proxy investigations at Lake Sidi Ali (Oral presentation: W. Fletcher, J. Campbell, S. Joannin, S. Mischke, C. Zielhofer, M. de Batist, and A. Mikdad)

EGU General Assembly, Vienna, Austria (2016). Stable carbon isotope fractionation in pollen of Atlas cedar: first steps towards a new palaeoecological proxy for Northwest Africa (Poster presentation: B. Bell, W. Fletcher, P. Ryan, H. Grant, and R. Ilmen)

EGU General Assembly, Vienna, Austria (2016). AMS radiocarbon dating of pollen concentrates in a karstic lake system (Poster presentation: W. Fletcher, C. Zielhofer, S. Mischke, J. Campbell, C. Bryant, D. Fink, and X. Xu)

EGU General Assembly, Vienna, Austria (2016). Anthropogenic triggers for Late Holocene soil erosion in the Jebel Toubkal, High Atlas, Morocco. (Poster presentation: W. Fletcher and Philip Hughes).

Other research

Ongoing and recent projects

  • Holocene Glacier Dynamics and Environmental Change in the High Atlas, Morocco (PI, Leverhulme Research Project)
  • International project partner for DINAMO3 (Dynamic, Monitoring and Calibration of Mediterranean vegetation in response to Global Warming using long-term records), with Dr Blas Valero Garcés and Dr Penélope Gonzalez-Sampériz, Instituto Pirenaico de Ecología, Zaragoza, Spain (Spanish Ministry of the Economy and Competivity Award CGL2015-69160-R, 2016-2019)
  • Impacts of abrupt glacial and deglacial climate events on vegetation and fire regime in the Middle Atlas, Morocco (PI: W. Fletcher, NERC New Investigator funded)
  • Millennial-scale vegetation and climate dynamics at Tenaghi Philippon, NE Greece  (PI: Prof. Joerg Pross, J.W. Goethe University Frankfurt)
  • Land-sea correlation on the Iberian margin (high-resolution palynology of Quaternary marine sediment cores) (in collaboration with Prof. M.F Sanchez Goñi, Bordeaux 1 University)
  • QUEST-DESIRE (Quantifying and Understanding changes in the Earth System, Dynamics of the Earth System and the Ice-core Record) Working Group on Abrupt Climate Change. (Working group co-coordinator) (PI: Prof. Sandy Harrison, University of Bristol)
  • PICC (Intégration des contraintes Paléoclimatiques pour réduire les Incertitudes sur l’évolution du Climat pendant les périodes Chaudes), Agence Nationale de la Recherche project ANR-05-BLAN-0312-02. (Director, Dr Valérie Masson-Delmotte, Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l’Environnement)
  • RESOLuTION (Rapid climatic and environmental shifts during oxygen isotope stages (OIS) 2 and 3 -linking high-resolution terrestrial, ice core and marine archives), European Science Foundation (ESF) Eurocores project FP33. (PI: Prof. Barbara Wohlfarth, University of Stockholm).


I currently convene the following courses:

GEOG 31041/20291 - Green Planet: Plant Ecology and Global Change

This course covers the main factors that influence the growth and distribution of plant species at local to global scales, and aims to develop an appreciation of the role of the biosphere in the shaping of the Earth's climate. The course provides an introduction to methodological approaches in ecology and biogeography.

GEOG 20072 - Pyrenees Overseas Fieldcourse

This fieldcourse concerns the climatology, ecology, hydrology and Quaternary history of the Pyrenees. It is held in Jaca, Spain.

GEOG 60111/2 - Environmental Change and Reconstruction

This MSc module provides an overview of key principles in environmental change and palaeo-environmental reconstruction, and a hands-on introduction to techniques of environmental reconstruction including field and lab techniques

I also currently co-teach the following courses:

GEOG 10401- Environmental Processes and Global Change

GEOG 10441- Ice Age Britain

GEOG 10422- Dynamic Earth

GEOG 12011- Tutorials

GEOG 30131- Mediterranean Quaternary Landscapes


BA, M.Phil, PhD (Cambridge)

  • Senior Lecturer in Physical Geography Quaternary Science, School of Environment and Development, University of Manchester (Lecturer, 2010-2015, Senior Lecturer from 2015)
  • Postdoctoral research at the Institute of Geosciences, J.W. Goethe University Frankfurt, Germany (2009-2010)
  • Postdoctoral research at UMR-5805 EPOC, Bordeaux 1 University, France (2005-2009)
  • PhD, Quaternary Palaeoenvironments Group, Department of Geography, University of Cambridge (2005)
  • M.Phil Quaternary Science, University of Cambridge (2000)
  • BA (Hons) Archaeology and Anthropology, Trinity College, University of Cambridge (1999)

My specialist area of interest is the detection and characterisation of abrupt environmental and climatic changes in the Mediterranean region using vegetation records from Quaternary terrestrial and marine sediment archives.

Research interests

Areas of expertise

  • Palynology
  • Palaeoecology
  • Palaeoclimatology
  • Abrupt climate changes
  • Quaternary vegetation dynamics
  • Mediterranean biogeography
  • Geoarchaeology

Research interests and activities

  • Continental-scale environmental responses to rapid climate variability (including Dansgaard-Oeschger and Heinrich Events) through the synthesis of European high-resolution pollen data for the last glacial period
  • Long-term and millennial-scale environmental changes in the Mediterranean region, during the last and preceding glacial-interglacial cycles, with foci on the western Mediterranean (Iberian Peninsula, northwestern Africa and the Atlantic façade) and eastern Mediterranean (northern Aegean) using high-resolution pollen analysis in the context of multi-proxy investigations of marine and terrestrial sediment archives
  • Holocene palaeoenvironmental change in response to climatic variability, human impact and sea-level change, with foci on the Iberian peninsula and northern Adriatic, using palynology, anthracology (macroscopic charcoal analysis), and sedimentology of estuarine, alluvial and cave sedimentary deposits.
  • Environmental change in the Middle and High Atlas, Morocco, including vegetation history, timing and extent of glacier advances, human-environment interactions and human exploitation of the mountain environments.


Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 13 - Climate Action
  • SDG 14 - Life Below Water
  • SDG 15 - Life on Land


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Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

Recent external collaboration on country/territory level. Dive into details by clicking on the dots or
  • Atmospheric CO2 forcing on Mediterranean biomes during the past 500 kyrs

    Koutsodendris, A., Dakos, V., Fletcher, W., Knipping, M., Kotthoff, U., Milner, A. M., Müller, U., Kaboth-Bahr, S., Kern, O., Kolb, L., Vahkrameeva, P., Wulf, S., Christanis, K., Schmiedl, G. & Pross, J., Dec 2023, In: Nature Communications. 14, p. 1-12 12 p., 1664.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    Open Access
  • Ecological impacts of the Industrial Revolution in a lowland raised peatbog near Manchester, NW England

    Garcés-Pastor, S., Fletcher, W. & Ryan, P., 14 Feb 2023, In: Ecology and Evolution. 13, 2, e9807.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    Open Access
  • Open Access
  • Influence of flooding variability on the vegetation development of Amazonian peatlands

    Sassoon, D., Roucoux, K. H., Lawson, I. T., Fletcher, W., Ryan, P., Honorio Coronado, E., del Aguila Pasquel, J., Bishop, T. & Åkesson, C. M., 2023.

    Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review

  • Testing the Effect of Relative Pollen Productivity on the REVEALS Model: A Validated Reconstruction of Europe-Wide Holocene Vegetation

    Serge, M., Mazier, F., Fyfe, R., Gaillard, M., Klein, T., Lagnoux, A., Galop, D., Githumbi, E., Mindrescu, M., Nielsen, A., Trondman, A., Poska, A., Sugita, S., Woodbridge, J., Abel-Schaad, D., Åkesson, C., Alenius, T., Ammann, B., Andersen, S., Anderson, R., & 119 othersAndrič, M., Balakauskas, L., Barnekow, L., Batalova, V., Bergman, J., Birks, H., Björkman, L., Bjune, A., Borisova, O., Broothaerts, N., Carrion, J., Caseldine, C., Christiansen, J., Cui, Q., Currás, A., Czerwiński, S., David, R., Davies, A., De jong, R., Di rita, F., Dietre, B., Dörfler, W., Doyen, E., Edwards, K., Ejarque, A., Endtmann, E., Etienne, D., Faure, E., Feeser, I., Feurdean, A., Fischer, E., Fletcher, W., Franco-Múgica, F., Fredh, E., Froyd, C., Garcés-Pastor, S., García-Moreiras, I., Gauthier, E., Gil-Romera, G., González-Sampériz, P., Grant, M., Grindean, R., Haas, J., Hannon, G., Heather, A., Heikkilä, M., Hjelle, K., Jahns, S., Jasiunas, N., Jiménez-Moreno, G., Jouffroy-Bapicot, I., Kabailienė, M., Kamerling, I., Kangur, M., Karpińska-Kołaczek, M., Kasianova, A., Kołaczek, P., Lagerås, P., Latalowa, M., Lechterbeck, J., Leroyer, C., Leydet, M., Lindbladh, M., Lisitsyna, O., López-Sáez, J., Lowe, J., Luelmo-Lautenschlaeger, R., Lukanina, E., Macijauskaitė, L., Magri, D., Marguerie, D., Marquer, L., Martinez-Cortizas, A., Mehl, I., Mesa-Fernández, J., Mighall, T., Miola, A., Miras, Y., Morales-Molino, C., Mrotzek, A., Sobrino, C., Odgaard, B., Ozola, I., Pérez-Díaz, S., Pérez-Obiol, R., Poggi, C., Rego, P., Ramos-Román, M., Rasmussen, P., Reille, M., Rösch, M., Ruffaldi, P., Goni, M., Savukynienė, N., Schröder, T., Schult, M., Segerström, U., Seppä, H., Vives, G., Shumilovskikh, L., Smettan, H., Stancikaite, M., Stevenson, A., Stivrins, N., Tantau, I., Theuerkauf, M., Tonkov, S., Van der knaap, W., Van leeuwen, J., Vecmane, E., Verstraeten, G., Veski, S., Voigt, R., Von stedingk, H., Waller, M., Wiethold, J., Willis, K., Wolters, S. & Zernitskaya, V., 29 Apr 2023, In: Land. 12, 5, 986.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    Open Access
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