EGU General Assembly 2023
© Author(s) 2023. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Holocene forest-cover changes in Europe - a comparison of dynamic vegetation model results and pollen-based REVEALS reconstructions

Anne Dallmeyer1, Anneli Poska2,3, Laurent Marquer4, Andrea Seim5,4, and Marie-José Gaillard-Lemdahl6
Anne Dallmeyer et al.
  • 1Max Planck Institute f. Meteorology, Hamburg, Germany (
  • 2Department of Geology, Tallinn University of Technology,Tallinn, Estonia
  • 3Department of Physical Geography and Ecosystem Science, Lund University, Lund, Sweden
  • 4Department of Botany, University of Innsbruck, Innsbruck, Austria
  • 5Institute of Forest Sciences, Albert-Ludwig-University of Freiburg, Freiburg, Germany
  • 6Department of Biology and Environmental Science, Linnaeus University, Kalmar, Sweden

We compare Holocene forest-cover changes in Europe derived from a transient MPI-ESM1.2 simulation with high spatial resolution time-slice simulations conducted in LPJ-GUESS and pollen-based quantitative reconstructions of forest cover based on the REVEALS model (pol-RVs). The dynamic vegetation models and pol-RVs agree with respect to the general temporal trends in forest cover for most parts of Europe, with a large forest cover during the mid-Holocene and substantially smaller forest cover closer to the present time. However, the age of the start of decrease in forest cover varies between regions, and is much older in the pol-RVs than in the models. The pol-RVs suggest much earlier anthropogenic deforestation than the prescribed land-use in the models starting 2000 years ago. While LPJ-GUESS generally overestimates forest cover compared to pol-RVs, MPI-ESM indicates lower percentages of forest cover than pol-RVs, particularly in Central Europe. A comparison of the simulated climate with chironomid-based climate reconstructions reveal that model-data mismatches in forest cover are in most cases not driven by biases in the climate. Instead, sensitivity experiments show that the model results strongly depend on the models tuning regarding natural disturbance regimes (e.g. fire and wind throw). The frequency and strength of disturbances are – like most of the parameters in the vegetation models – static and calibrated to modern conditions. However, these parameter values may not be valid during climate and vegetation states totally different from today’s. In particular, the mid-Holocene natural forests were probably more stable and less sensitive to disturbances than present day forests that are heavily altered by human interventions. Our analysis highlights the fact that such model settings are inappropriate for paleo-simulations and complicate model-data comparisons with additional challenges. Moreover, our study suggests that land-use is the main driver of forest decline in Europe during the mid- and late-Holocene.

How to cite: Dallmeyer, A., Poska, A., Marquer, L., Seim, A., and Gaillard-Lemdahl, M.-J.: Holocene forest-cover changes in Europe - a comparison of dynamic vegetation model results and pollen-based REVEALS reconstructions, EGU General Assembly 2023, Vienna, Austria, 24–28 Apr 2023, EGU23-11206,, 2023.