Prehistoric farming and the postglacial expansion of beech and hornbeam: A comment on Kuster
Gardner AR., Willis KJ.
Kuster (1997) has argued that human activity rather than climatic 'deterioration' has been responsible for the postglacial expansion of beech (Fagus sylvatica) and hornbeam (Carpinus betulus) into the oak (Quercus sp.) woodlands of central Europe. We concur that climatic change plays a subordinate role to human activity in the establishment of these taxa, although we feel that the approach adopted by Kuster overlooks important ecological and methodological issues. Furthermore, we argue that the expansion of beech is an entirely natural phenomenon which would have occurred without anthropogenic interference but which coincides with early agricultural activity as a result of slow migration and establishment rates. Here we present data from four new palaeoecological sequences collected from sites in Slovenia and Hungary that reveal fluctuations in established forest during the postglacial. In the Slovenian example, anthropogenic activity is seen to reduce beech forest while hornbeam and oak expand to fill the gaps. In the Hungarian examples the response is more complex and includes fluctuations in hazel (Corylus avellana) in addition to hornbeam and oak.