Oxford Long-Term Ecology Lab

Long-Term Ecology, Biodiversity Conservation, and Environmental Stewardship Technologies


By reconstructing the impacts of environmental change over an extended period of time it is possible to gain insights into the implications of future change in a particular area or region. Climatic and environmental change in Central America, progressing through the Holocene, is strongly influenced by evolving atmospheric oscillations and the fluctuation of the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ). Understanding these systems is paramount to discerning past and present impacts upon the environment including precipitation regimes, vegetation and the local human populations. Understanding and quantifying this change will be achieved through the palaeolimnological study of a number of carefully selected lakes in Nicaragua and Guatemala applying a multi-proxy approach to delineate impacts through time. The primary objectives of this study are to explore and investigate vegetation recovery and resilience in Nicaragua and Guatemala in conjunction with changes in precipitation and human activity spanning the Holocene.

This research will focus on the spatial and temporal impacts of the Little Ice Age (LIA) and Medieval Climate Anomaly (MCA) on vegetation and land cover. Conditions during the MCA are suggested to be analogous to the present day and therefore understanding the impacts of different climatic and environmental events during this time may be used to help us better predict and plan for similar eventualities in our present and future.

High resolution studies are the key to understanding biotic changes in dynamic environments. Examination of changes in vegetation at a resolution of 10 years spanning the last 500 years will show in detail flowering patterns of natural flora and land use change (e.g. crop rotations; and slash and burn).

Application of these high resolution studies will enable the collection of robust evidence for establishing pre-Mayan vegetation baselines (specifically in the lowlands of Guatemala) as an indication of naturally induced change verses anthropogenic influence.

Project Details



Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)


Nicaragua & Guatamala

Additional Researchers