New research highlights the need to learn from past climate changes

New international research led by The University of Manchester has highlighted that learning from previous periods of climate change is essential if we are to understand the vulnerability of species and ecosystems to global warming. An international team of researchers led by Manchester’s Dr William Fletcher has produced the most detailed record of past vegetation change in Northwest Africa to date, based on ancient pollen grains and charcoal recovered from a lake in Morocco’s Middle Atlas mountain range (pictured above). The pollen content of the lake sediments reveals how forest composition fluctuated in response to climate changes throughout the last 12,000 years. The study reveals a shifting balance between evergreen oaks, which developed during warmer times with increased drought stress, and Atlas cedar, which expanded during cooler intervals. The findings highlight the exposure of Northwest African forests to climate change, and underscore the particular threat to the endangered Atlas cedar from projected future warming.