Early to mid-holocene tree immigration and spread in the Isle of Man: The roles of climate and other factors

Richard C. Chiverrell (Lead / Corresponding author), James B. Innes, Jeff J. Blackford, Peter J. Davey, David H. Roberts, Mairead M. Rutherford, Philippa R. Tomlinson, Simon D. Turner

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The Isle of Man is a large island which lies in the middle of the northern Irish Sea between Britain and Ireland and, because of its insularity and size, has an impoverished flora compared with the two main islands. This has been the case throughout the postglacial and warrants the island’s description as a separate phytogeographic province. We have considered Holocene tree pollen data from seventeen sites on the island which together preserve a vegetation history that spans the six thousand years of the early and mid-postglacial from the end of the Lateglacial at 11,700 cal. BP to the mid-Holocene Ulmus decline at ca. 5800 cal. BP. Radiocarbon dating of the rational limits of the pollen curves for the main tree taxa has allowed an appraisal of the timing of each one’s expansion to become a significant component of the island’s woodland, and comparison with the dates of their expansion on the adjacent regions of Britain and Ireland. The radiocarbon dates show that, although some variability exists probably due to local factors, there is considerable concordance between the timings of major pollen zone boundaries in Britain and Ireland around the northern Irish Sea. On the Isle of Man the expansions of both Juniperus and Betula were delayed by several centuries compared to the British/Irish data, however the timing of the expansions of Corylus, Ulmus, Quercus, Pinus and Alnus on the Isle of Man all appear closely comparable to the ages for these pollen stratigraphic events in north Wales, northwest England, southwest Scotland and eastern Ireland, as are those for the Ulmus decline. It is likely that local pedological and edaphic factors on the island account for the differences in the first Holocene millennium, while regional climatic factors governed the timings for the rest of the expansions of tree taxa across the wider region, including the Isle of Man. Disturbance, including by human agency, was important at the site scale and perhaps triggered early tree expansion in some places, including Quercus, Ulmus and Alnus. Insularity seems not to have been a significant factor in the expansion of the major forest trees.
Original languageEnglish
Article number3
Number of pages37
Issue number1
Early online date4 Jan 2023
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2023


  • Isle of Man
  • Holocene
  • palynology
  • trees
  • climate
  • isolation
  • human activity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)


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