Palaeoenvironmental investigation into aspects of the vegetation history of north Fife and south Perthshire, Scotland
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Results from the palaeoenvironmental investigations into the Holocene vegetation history of three sites in eastern lowland Scotland are presented. Two of the sites, Cruvie and Pitbladdo, are located in north Fife; the third site, Methvern is situated in south Perthshire. Cruvie is located in a kettle-hole and provides data extending from the Late-glacial to ea. 3900 BP. Pitbladdo is a former bog and cores from this site provide data on the period from ca. 8000 to 3900 BP. Methvern is a well-maintained raised bog and provides data that spans the entire Holocene. Relative, concentration and pollen preservation data are supplemented by loss-on-ignition, pH and magnetic susceptibility analyses. Microscopic charcoal data are also recorded. Radiocarbon dates allow comparisons to be made between similar events at different sites, resulting in a detailed picture of temporal and spatial patterns of palaeoecological change within a small geographical area. Attention is focused upon the identification of human impact on the environment during the early to mid Holocene. The influences of succession and climate change in determining patterns of vegetation change are also considered. The data obtained indicate that human activity may have had a limited impact on the environment in this area during the Mesolithic, but no unequivocal evidence is recorded. Anthropogenic impacts are more clearly identified during the Neolithic period and from the late Neolithic/early Bronze Age, human activity is considerable and includes pastoral and mixed farming. The value of tephra as a dating tool in this area of eastern Scotland is considered. The absence of tephra at the three sites investigated has led to the formulation of a hypothesis linking patterns of orographic rainfall and tephra deposition within Scotland. The study highlights the difficulties of determining the causal factors of vegetation change and the limitations of palaeoecological data in the identification of anthropogenic activity during the early Holocene. The recognition of climate signals is discussed and the routine counting of microscopic charcoal at all sites is proposed. It is suggested that further research is required to clarify the boundaries of tephra deposition in Britain. Finally the diverse patterns of change recorded within the study area emphasise the need for a network of closely spaced and well dated palaeoenvironmental sites covering the regions of Scotland, leading to the recognition of local patterns of environmental change.