Scots Pine (Pinus sylvestris) dynamics in the Welsh Marches during the Mid to Late Holocene

Dael Sassoon, William Fletcher, Alistair Hotchkiss, Fern Owen, Liting Feng

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Around 4000 cal yr BP, Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) suffered a widespread demise across the British Isles. This paper presents new information about P. sylvestris populations found in the Welsh Marches (western central Britain), for which the long-term history and origins are poorly known. Two new pollen records were produced from the Lin Can Moss ombrotrophic bog (LM18) and the Breidden Hill pond (BH18). The LM18 peat core is supported by loss-on-ignition, humification analysis and radiocarbon dating. Lead concentrations were used to provide an estimated timeframe for the recent BH18 record. In contrast to many other Holocene pollen records from the British Isles, analysis of LM18 reveals that Scots pine grains were deposited continuously between c. 6900–300 cal yr BP, at frequencies of 0.3–5.4%. It is possible that individual Scots pine trees persisted through the wider demise on thin soils of steep drought-prone crags of hills or the fringes of lowland bogs in the Welsh Marches. At BH18, the record indicates a transition from broadleaved to mixed woodland, including conifer species introduced around AD 1850 including Picea and Pinus. The insights from BH18 suggest that the current populations may largely be the result of planting. Comparison of the LM18 findings with other regional pollen records highlights consistent patterns, including a Mid-Holocene maximum (ca. 7000 cal yr BP), long-term persistence at low pollen percentages and a Late-Holocene minimum (ca. 3000 cal yr BP). These distinctive trends encourage further studies on refugial areas for Scots pine in this region and elsewhere.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1033-1046
Number of pages14
JournalThe Holocene
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 19 Feb 2021


  • Pinus sylvestris
  • Scots pine
  • Shropshire
  • Welsh Marches
  • palaeoecology
  • pine-decline


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