Apparent lack of woodland and abundance of woodland indicator species: the role of humans, birds and rabbits on the changing vegetation of Skomer Island, Wales

Webb, Julia C ORCID: 0000-0002-1652-965X, McCarroll, Julia, Carpenter, William S ORCID: 0009-0001-9031-5561, Chambers, Frank M ORCID: 0000-0002-0998-2093, Toms, Phillip ORCID: 0000-0003-2149-046X and Wood, Matthew J ORCID: 0000-0003-0920-8396 (2017) Apparent lack of woodland and abundance of woodland indicator species: the role of humans, birds and rabbits on the changing vegetation of Skomer Island, Wales. Archaeology in Wales, 56. pp. 90-99.

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To date, the interactions between small mammals, birds and humans have not been explored in a small island environment which is under strong environmental pressure in its exposed maritime position. Skomer is a small island off the coast of south-west Wales; its present vegetation includes a range of grasses, sedges and herbaceous species, and a notable lack of trees. A shallow (460 mm) soil core spanning c.14 ka was retrieved from the South Valley on the Island. Interpretation of the lithology suggests that sediment accumulation rates are slow, and vegetation takes a long time to establish, probably due to thin soils and high rates of erosion. The vegetation inferred from the pollen record is dominated by grasses and herbs, similar to the present day, with periods of greater influence of Ericaceae. There is no evidence for woodland throughout the vegetation record preserved in the soil of the island, although 74 woodland indicator species are currently present. Woodland is likely to have been present during the early Holocene, but has been absent for at least 2800 years. Skomer Island provides an example of the persistence of woodland indicator species in the absence of woodland. The authors suggest that Pteridium provides the surrogate protection from grazing and competition from grasses to allow bluebells and other woodland indicator species to thrive. Birds, humans and small mammals have influenced the vegetation through forest clearance, and then by restricting re-growth through grazing, burrowing disturbance and an altered nutrient load from associated animal faeces.

Item Type: Article
Article Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Bluebell; palynology; environmental archaeology; coppicing; herbivore dung fungi; grazing; conservation
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GE Environmental Sciences
Divisions: Schools and Research Institutes > School of Education and Science
Research Priority Areas: Place, Environment and Community
Depositing User: Anne Pengelly
Date Deposited: 01 Oct 2019 10:27
Last Modified: 22 Sep 2023 13:15

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