European Pollen Database -- Newsletter 11

Edited by Sheila Hicks and John Keltner

Løvenholm Castle, 27 April 2001 The EPD held a one day Advisory Board and Executive Committee meeting at Løvenholm Castle in Denmark 26 – 29th April 2001 in connection with a broader meeting at which the majority of the pollen databases were represented. This newsletter summarizes the main topics brought up at that meeting.

Status of the EPD (Rachid Cheddadi)

Gathering for the field excursion

EPD in Financial Crisis (Richard Bradshaw)

Division of Responsibilities (Malgorzata Latalowa & Spassimir Tonkov)

Learning from the local palynology

EPD Executive Committee/Advisory Board 2001

French-Polish Initiative (Malgorzata Latalowa & Rachid Cheddadi)

Calibration of Radio-carbon Dates (Bas van Geel)

Report on the Current Status of the EPD – 2001

Prepared by Rachid Cheddadi

As mentionned in the previous two newsletters, the European Pollen Database is no longer supported directly by any European project as a host intitution for archiving pollen data. However, the data included in the EPD are being used within the framework of scientific projects. The feed back from these projects to the EPD is that the new data collected or produced during the course of project work will be available in the database at the end of these projects. Thus, within the framework of the European project Fossilva (described in Newsletter 10) and the French project Végétation et Climats de la France: Du passé au futur more than 80 new pollen records have been collected. These new sites are being archived together with their available metadata. A time scale has also been applied to each pollen record using available 14C dates. Most of these new pollen records were collected from France. Taking into account these new data, the EPD has exceeded 1000 pollen records. Twenty new age/depth models have also been developed and several others have been revised.

During a visit by John Keltner (manager of the pollen data at the WDC, Boulder, Colorado) to the EPD, we discovered that the field storing the publication references in the database (table PUBL) was corrupted and several bibliographic references did not correspond to the right authors of the study. There were also some mixed references entries. We have worked on this problem and most of the cross-references have now been corrected. However, we would like to take the opportunity of this newsletter to ask you to let the EPD database mananger know about any mistake you may find.

During this past year we have also set up a new EPD web page that provides useful information about how to obtain data, how to contribute data, what is the administrative structure and its technical organisation. The new EPD web page also provides access to the very useful visualisation tool WebMapper.

The main new concept in handling new data contributed to the EPD is the public FTP site that is made available to contributors for submitting their data. Any contributor can put his/her data and metadata in any format on the FTP site and then send a message to the EPD database manager to let him know that new data has been contributed to the EPD. Such an FTP site aims at avoiding delay between data contribution and its use. Previously, in order to have newly contributed data properly included in the EPD, the metadata had to be collected, checked and properly organised. The taxonomy also has to be checked and an age/depth model applied. These tasks may not be accomplished until several weeks/months after data submission as there are no funds available for such tasks. Without the FTP directory any data contributed to the EPD may not be immediately available on the Internet. The FTP site is aims to avoid the situation whereby newly contributed data remain at the database center without being available in the public domain. The EPD protocol allows contributors to submit their data in a restricted form. These data should not be put in the FTP directory but rather sent to the database centre. For these restricted data, printable documents are also available for submitting the metadata.

Details concerning how to access data archived in the EPD are also provided on the new EPD web page and the DB manual can also be downloaded. Besides, the handy WebMapper tool and the search engine an SQL tool has been made available. This new tool is aimed at querying the database remotely. We are aware that the SQL tool can be used only by colleagues who have some knowledge of the SQL language but such a tool widens the possibilities of using the database on a personnal PC without downloading it entirely and also allows one to access the most up-to-date version of the EPD.

The Future of the EPD – Financial problems and possible solutions

Prepared by Richard Bradshaw

Stable, longer-term positions and finance are of central importance for the future development and success of the EPD. The main current source of finance comes from EPD involvement in 2 ongoing EU research projects. This involvement ensures that some new sites are submitted to the database but is not a fully satisfactory long-term situation. Ideally, the reliable continuation of the EPD requires financial commitment to personnel dedicated solely to entering data, upkeeping the database and ensuring quality control. The EU funded FOSSILVA project should be able to help finance the next Advisory Board meeting which could be held either late in 2002 or early in 2003. Negotiations are in progress in France with CNRS about the possibility of appointing a data technician to work on the EPD. The outcome of these negotiations is uncertain.

There is some possibility of obtaining funding via the EU 5th Framework programme programme under the section for the ‘Support of research infrastructures’. Several other databases have recently received support under this programme and the EPD has not previously applied to this section. The next closing date for applications is in October 2001. It was proposed that the compilation of surface samples and their role in calibrating fossil data regarding land-use change and biodiversity dynamics might be an appropriate focus for such an application. The EPD chairman agreed to prepare an application and to involve as many EPD AB and EC members and their research institutes as possible.

A proposal for a multi-proxy database, MUPPETS, in which the EPD would be represented, will also be made under the ‘Support for research infrastructures’ section of the EU 5th Framework Programme. This proposal, which is already underway, was welcomed as a positive development that could bring a qualified post-doc to the EPD for the duration of the planned project.

In the worst-case scenario (failure of all EU applications etc.), if any other country is able to provide personnel and resources the eventual re-location of the EPD should not be ruled out.

Division of Responsibilities within the EPD Advisory Board

Prepared by Malgorzata Latalowa & Spassimir Tonkov

There are several aspects of EPD activities which require continual appraisal and which burden the datamanager unnecessarily. The Advisory Board decided to spread such duties between its members as follows:

A Twin French - Polish approach

Prepared by Malgorzata Latalowa & Rachid Cheddadi

Two independent but very similar regional projects started recently in Poland and France. The aim of these two projects is to reconstruct the patterns of the spread of the most important taxa in the two countries. The period of interest is the last 15,000 years and the intention is to produce maps for several time slices both in the late glacial and the Holocene . The maps will be produced using a 14C time scale.

Three types of data maps are envisaged: isochrones (with lines of equal age), isopolls (with lines of equal pollen percentages), proportional dots (the size of the dots is proportional to the pollen percentages). In addition to these three types of species mapping, the intention is to produce vegetation maps with groupings of taxa following a concept such as that of "plant functional types".

The two projects will last three years and will be realised in close co-operation. In France 22 scientists are involved and in Poland 24 are taking part in the project. Such an approach is expected to give highly accurate information since a greater number of local experts are involved and, therefore, numerous points can be better checked for data mapping. In fact, local experts will help by substantially improving the spatial resolution on the maps through their own data contribution. This co-operation will also enhance the quality control of the data and will help in applying better age/depth models, since each record will be controlled by the author of the data. Several new pollen records collected within the framework of these two projects will be archived in the EPD and released when the projects end.

Both teams will discuss progress together and try to harmonise such problems as, for example: the use of age/depth models, the selection of pollen spectra, methods of interpolation in the lack of appropriate data, determination of the pollen sum and the software. The leaders aim to set up a protocol, based on their similar approaches, and distribute it to other colleagues in Europe. The hope of the co-ordinators of these two projects is that other countries will follow their initiatives and that the maps produced in each European country can eventually be combined to produce a continental view of the dynamics of migration of the most important taxa.

Please contact the Polish and the French co-ordinators (Malgorzata Latalowa and Rachid Cheddadi) for more information.

Calibration of Radio-carbon Dates: Some Useful Sources

Prepared by Bas van Geel

Introductory discussions of 14C calibration can be found in Aitken (1990: Chapter 4), Bowman (1990, Chapter 4), Bronk Ramsey (1998) and Taylor (1987:133-142) The manuals for the OxCal (Bronk Ramsey 1998), CAL25 (van der Plicht 1998) and CALIB (Stuiver and Reimer 1998) calibration software also discuss the principles of calibration as used in those programs.

Aitken, M.J., 1990. Science-based dating in archaeology. London, Longman, 274 p.

Bowman, S., 1990 Radiocarbon dating. Berkeley and Los Angeles, University of California Press, 64 p.

Bronk Ramsey, C. n.d./1998 Radiocarbon Calibration. Radiocarbon WEB-info. OxCal Program [WWW document]. (URL)

Stuiver, M. and Reimer, P., 1998. CALIB Version 4.0 [Computer Program] (URL)

Taylor, R.E., 1987. Radiocarbon dating: an archaeological perspective. Orlando, Academic Press, 212 p.

van der Plicht, J., 1998. The Groningen Calibration Program Version CAL25 [Computer program]

EPD Executive Committee and Advisory Board for 2001-2002

Executive Committee:

Jacques-Louis de Beaulieu (Chairperson) (2005)
Brian Huntley (2004)
André F. Lotter (2002)

Advisory Board:

Sheila Hicks (Chairperson) (2005)
Thomas Litt (Vice Chairperson) (2005)
Richard Bradshaw (2004)
Tiiu Koff (2002)
Ramon Perez-Obiol (2002)
Chronis Tzedakis (2002)
George Jacobson (2003)
Malgorzata Latalowa (2003)
Spassimir Tonkov (2003)
Wim Hoek (2006)
Pavel Tarasov (2006)

Data manager:

Rachid Cheddadi

The year shown in brackets indicates the year when the position occupied by the person in question comes up for election. Because the EPD has no funds of its own, the financing of an annual meeting that gathers the whole EC and AB together to follow EPD progress and plan for the future is becoming increasingly difficult. Prior to the election of new members the possibility of reducing the number of EPD AB members was discussed. It has frequently been underlined that the adequate representation in the AB of the different geographical regions of Europe and different areas of expertise is of special importance. As a result, it was decided that the number of AB members should remains the same as it is at present.

If you are interested in serving on the Advisory Board or Executive Committee please contact the chairperson Sheila Hicks.

10 October 2002