Northwestern Europe experienced rapid and intense climate variations during late Quaternary times. These climate variations profoundly affected the environment, and the effects are well reflected in vegetational changes. Past vegetations are reconstructed through palynological analysis, i.e. study of pollen and spores produced by the former plants and extracted from the sediments. The palynological analysis of series of vertically spaced sediment samples, combined with radiometric dating, results then in an assessment of the tempo and mode of the vegetational changes that are linked to climate variations.
The alluvial plains of the river Scheldt in northern Belgium hold rather complete sequences of organic-rich sediments and are well-suited for palynological analysis. Circa 600 samples from the Scheldt valley were palynologically analyzed during six years in the framework of a multidisciplinary geo-environmental study commissioned by the Flemish authorities. Parts of this study are already published in international peer-reviewed journals, but a substantial amount (ca. 315 samples) remains unpublished.
The objective of this PhD-project is to finalize the interpretation of the large
unpublished palynological dataset and in this way contribute to the further refinement of the
paleoenvironment of the Scheldt area, and also assess the effects of the first human occupation
during the last 10.000 years.