Until now, it was presumed that the last glacial period denuded the Scandinavian landscape of trees until a gradual return of milder weather began and melted away the ice cover some 9000 years ago. That perspective is now disproved by research headed by Professor Eske Willerslev from the Centre for GeoGenetics, University of Copenhagen, Denmark, Laura Parducci from the University of Uppsala, Sweden, and Inger Greve Alsos from Troms University Museum, Norway. Their research teams show that some Scandinavian conifers survived the inhospitable ice age climate likely for several thousands of years. The result is to be published in the esteemed scientific journal, Science.
The story of Scandinavian forests needs revamping when it comes to the history of conifers, spruce and pine in particular. Until now, researchers believed that contemporary coniferous forests in Scandinavia were the products of species migration from the areas of southern and eastern Europe that were ice-free during the last ice age. Indeed, the last glacial period saw Scandinavia covered by a formidable ice sheet.
The migration interpretation of the story is not correct, as the picture of Scandinavian coniferous forests is far more nuanced and complex than previously thought.
"Our results demonstrate that not all the Scandinavian conifer trees have the same recent ancestors, as we once believed. There were groups of spruce and pine that survived the harsh climate in small ice-free pockets, or in refuges, as we call them, for tens of thousands of years, and then were able to spread once the ice retreated. Other spruce and pine trees have their origins in the southern and eastern ice-free areas of Europe. Therefore, one can now refer to 'original' and later naturally 'introduced' Scandinavian conifer species," says Professor Eske Willerslev, Centre for GeoGenetics, University of Copenhagen.
In the midst of an ice age
|Contact: Professor Eske Willerslev|
University of Copenhagen