Fully funded PhD opportunity (Competition, Home/EU): “If this is a refugium, why are my feet so bloody cold ” (Buckland and Dugmore, 1991). Testing the refugium hypothesis in Iceland from the last glacial cycle using palaeolimnological techniques


Prof Pete Langdon, Prof Mary Edwards

The late settlement of Iceland (AD 870) allows scientists the unique opportunity to study an island‘s Holocene environmental history in a setting unaffected by human activities and, in fact, all herbivorous land mammals. Under these conditions the main driver of vegetation and environmental change in Iceland is climate, with intermittent influences from volcanic events, which occur on mainly local spatial and short temporal scales. There is considerable debate concerning the most recent biotic colonisation of Iceland: whether Iceland was populated entirely from afar after glacial retreat in the early Holocene, following a tabula rasa, or whether glacial refugia were present on the island and species were able to survive the past glacial cycle on Iceland. Chironomids are amongst the first colonisers of islands and are able to disperse rapidly due to their short reproduction time, winged flight, and tolerance for a range of environmental conditions. Prior research by the project supervisor and colleagues working in Iceland has amassed a large dataset documenting chironomid species abundance through the deglacial and early Holocene around Iceland, although this is mainly from the North and Northwest. These data address the nature and timing of chironomid dispersal across Iceland after glacial retreat, and by inference the influences of climate and biogeography on dispersal.

This project will redress this spatial balance in order to more fully address the question of refugia in Iceland and explore palaeolimnological sites in NE Iceland, including analysing at least 2 sites linked with an Icelandic Research Council project and working in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Iceland. The chironomid data will be linked with vegetation colonisation data (including pollen and aDNA analyses) to further address questions of refugia and colonisation. Opportunities could also exist to do some aDNA work on the aquatic fauna. Preliminary work on Icelandic Cladocera by collaborators suggests one studied species is most similar genetically to Greenlandic populations, whereas another species has a UK/NW Europe affinity.

Buckland & Dugmore 1991. If this is a refugium, why are my feet so bloody cold The Origins of the Icelandic Biota in the Light of Recent Research. In Maizels & Caseldine (eds) Environmental Change in Iceland: Past and Present, pp107-125.

Caseldine, C.J., Langdon, P.G. and Holmes, N. 2006. Early Holocene climate variability and the timing and extent of the Holocene Thermal Maximum (HTM) in Northern Iceland. Quaternary Science Reviews 25: 2314-2331.

Langdon, P.G., Leng, M.J., Holmes, N. and Caseldine, C.J. 2010. Lacustrine evidence of early-Holocene environmental change in northern Iceland: a multiproxy palaeoecology and stable isotope study. The Holocene 20: 205-214.

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