The success of Neotropical Diversification

Springer Nature has just reported that our book entitled “Neotropical Diversification: Patterns and Processes“, included in the collection “Biomedical and Life Sciences”, is being highly successful within the scientific community. Since its publication in 2020, the book has received more than 100 citations and about 21,000 downloads (electronic version). More details on the citing journals/books are available at the Springer’s book page.

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Posted in biodiversity, Books, My publications

Medieval forest dynamics in the Pyrenees

A recent study challenges the idea that present-day Pyrenean landscapes are the result of large-scale anthropogenic deforestation and land degradation that occurred during the Middle Ages.

High-resolution (decadal) pollen analysis of sediments from two lakes situated in the lowest (Montcortès) and the highest (Sant Maurici) forests belts of the Iberian Pyrenees showed contrasting dynamics during the Middle Ages (5th to 15th centuries).

In Montcortès, Medieval deforestation occurred by 1000 CE but forests recovered by 1500 CE. Present-day landscapes originated after a new Modern Age deforestation (1800 CE) and a new recovery during the industrial revolution (1830 CE onward).

Contrastingly, the Sant Maurici forests were not extensively removed during the Middle Ages and remained dense and healthy until today, showing remarkable resilience. It has been suggested that these forests would have acted as a microrefugium for high-mountain conifer forests.

These results are important to inform forest conservation practices, especially in the identification of tipping points beyond which irreversible regime changes may occur.


Rull, V. & Vegas-Vilarrúbia, T. 2021. Conifer forest dynamics in the Iberian Pyrenees during the Middle Ages. Forests, 12: 1685.

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Posted in My publications

New book on Easter Island’s prehistory

The book “The Prehistory of Rapa Nui (Easter Island): Towards an Integrative Interdisciplinary Framework” (Springer Nature), edited by V. Rull and C.M. Stevenson, has been sent to the press and will be issued early next year

This book addresses the main enigmas of Easter Island’s prehistory – i.e., the time from the initial settlement to European contact – from a multidisciplinary and unbiased perspective.

The main topics include:

  • the timing of settlement and the origin of the first settlers
  • the main traits of the prehistoric Rapanui culture and its changes
  • the total deforestation of the island, its timing and causes
  • the extinction of the original and the prehistoric biota
  • the occurrence of climatic shifts and their potential effects on socioecological trends
  • the occurrence or not of a Rapanui cultural and demographic collapse before European contact
  • the influence of Europeans on the prehistoric Rapanui society

The book is subdivided into thematic sections and each chapter is written by renowned specialists in disciplines such as archaeology, anthropology, paleoecology, ethnography, linguistics, ethnobotany, phylogenetics/phylogeography and history.

Contributors have been invited regardless their personal approaches and perspectives, to provide an open and objective vision that includes as many views as possible on the topics considered. In this way, the readers may be able to compare different of points of view and make their own interpretations on each subject.

The book is intended for a wide audience including graduate students, advanced undergraduate students, university teachers and researchers interested on the subject. Given its multidisciplinary character and the topics included, the book is suitable for students and researchers from a wide range of disciplines and interests.

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Posted in Books, My publications

The extinction of science

The current revival of Bernalism and the use of market-based scientific practices are undermining science as we know it.

Read the full paper at: Rull, V. 2016. Free science under threat. EMBO Reports, 17: 131-135.

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Posted in My publications, Science, Society

Montcortès: a unique Mediterranean paleoecological record of the last 3000 years

The Pyrenean Lake Montcortès sediments hold the longest continuous and absolutely varve-dated record of the Mediterranean region, encompassing the last three millennia, from the Late Bronze Age to the present.

The high-resolution paleoecological reconstruction of the Montcortès sequence using pollen analysis has recently been published in the journal Quaternary Science Reviews.

The resolution of the Montocortès reconstruction is bidecadal, on average, but some periods have been resolved at quasidecadal (Middle Ages) and subdecadal (Modern Age to present) resolutions. The study is focused on the timing of anthropization and the further development of vegetation under climatic and anthropogenic drivers until the shaping of present landscapes. An additional advantage of Montcortes is that the local history of the Pallars region, where the lake is located, is well documented and can be easily correlated with the paleoecological record.

Contrary to former interpretations of general landscape anthropization of the Pyrenees during the Middle Ages, the Montcortès catchment was irreversibly transformed by anthropic activities at the beginning of the Iron Age (ca. 750-650 BCE). From this point, the catchment underwent successive transformations due to varied human uses (fire, grazing, cereal cultivation, weed/ruderal plant expansions, hemp cultivation/retting), which have been related to the different cultural phases and sociopolitical changes documented in the local historical records.

The Montcortès record has been compared with other records at local (Pyrenees), regional (Iberian Peninsula) and biome (Mediterranean) scales. Locally and regionally, anthropization times and further ecological trends showed significant heterogeneity according to elevation, biogeographical patterns and cultural trends. At the Mediterranean level, the Montcortèss record emerges as a unique sequence for the western sector of this biome that should be complemented with similar archives from the central and eastern Mediterranean.


Rull, V., Vegas-Vilarrúbia, T., Corella, J.P., Trapote, M.C., Montoya, E., Valero-Garcés, B. 2021. A unique Pyrenean varved record provides a detailed reconstruction of Mediterranean vegetation and land-use dynamics over the last three millennia. Quaternary Science Reviews, 268: 107128.

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Posted in My publications, Research papers

High-mountain forest resilience

Some high-elevation Pyrenean forests remained virtually pristine during the last 4000 years

Palynological analysis of the last ca. 4300 cal yr BP using a sediment core taken from high mountain (ca. 1900 m elevation) Lake Sant Maurici sediments (southern-central Pyrenees) showed remarkable vegetation constancy during the Late Quaternary.

During the studied period, the vegetation around the lake was dominated by pine (Pinus) forests with birch (Betula), oak (Quercus) and hazel (Corylus) trees, as is the case today.

The composition of these forests and the abundance of their components remained quite stable, despite the occurrence of temperature and moisture shifts.

The degree of human disturbance, notably that of pastoralism and cereal cultivation by scattered and temporary settlements, was very low and had little or no effect on the dominant forests.

This situation contrasts with most high-elevation (subalpine and alpine) environments of the central Pyrenees that were massively anthropized during the Middle Ages.

Past records of this type may allow the estimation of natural and anthropogenic thresholds for irreversible forest changes, which would be useful for conservation purposes.


Rull, V., Cañellas-Boltà, N. & Vegas-Vilarrúbia, T. 2021. Late-Holocene forest resilience in the central Pyrenean highlands, as deduced from pollen analysis of Lake Sant Maurici sediments. The Holocene (preprint available at PaleorXiv, doi 10.31233/

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Posted in My publications, Research papers

Spatiotemporal gradients in the anthropization of Pyrenean landscapes

Pyrenean landscapes were anthropized gradually, from the Bronze Age to the Middle Ages, following a general elevational pattern, from lowlands to highlands. 

Human settlement, as derived from archaeological evidence, may occur much earlier than irreversible anhtropogenic transformation of landscape, as deduced from paleoecological evidence, mainly pollen analysis. The main signs of landscape anthropization are total or parcial deforestation and meadow expansion (landscape opening), treeline lowering, unexpected changes in forest composition, increases of fire incidence, and intensification and/or expansion of cropping and grazing practices.

In a paper that will be published soon in Quaternary Science Reviews, we identified a general upward anthropization trend in the southern-central Pyrenees from the Bronze Age (basimontane belts) to the Middle Ages (subalpine and alpine levels), which progressed at a general average rate of 40 m elevation per century.

The elevational gradient is most clear between the Bronze Age and the Roman occupation, suggesting a progressive upward anthropization trend from the south with the likely involvement of Iberian cultures. During the Middle Ages, a massive anthropization pattern of subalpine/alpine areas is observed; this pattern is chronologically consistent with the incursion of northern cultures crossing the Pyrenees and the development of extensive high-mountain pastoralism and horizontal transhumance.

Further work is needed to confirm these observations, especially in areas with few available paleoecological studies, notably the basal and montane belts. It could be interesting to develop similar studies on other Pyrenean regions and other mountain ranges.


Rull, V. & Vegas-Vilarrúbia, T. 2021. A spatiotemporal gradient in the anthropization of Pyrenean landscapes. Preliminary report. Accepted in Quaternary Science Reviews. Preprint available at PalorXiv, doi 10.31233/

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Posted in My publications, Research papers

Sittin’ on the dock of the bay

Posted in Tunes

Back to the Botanic Institute

After five years (2015-2020) in the Institute of Earth Sciences Jaume Almera (ICTJA), now Geosciences Barcelona (GEO3BCN), I am coming back to the Botanic Institute of Barcelona (IBB), both belonging to the Spanish Council for Scientific Research (CSIC). The IBB lies within the Montjuïc Park, one of the most beautiful places in Barcelona, situated on a hill with splendid views of the city and the sea, as well as emblematic sites such as palaces, castles and other historical buildings, museums, the Joan Miró Foundation, the 1992 Olimpic Ring and numerous gardens including the city Botanical Garden, just to cite some. The IBB is situated near the top of the hill, inside the terrains of the Botanical Garden (see the interactive map below).

In the IBB, I will be happy again and will spend the last five years of my professional career working on my usual topics, with emphasis on the paleoecology of the Pyrenees, my homeland. I will also take the opportunity to synthesize the research that I have carried out for more than 40 years, to try to leave something useful to future generations, provided they are interested in my experience. This summarizing task has already begun in the last couple of years with the publication of some general books and review papers, and I hope that the IBB will be a perfect place for its continuation.

The research group on palynology and paleoecology that I founded almost 20 years ago and the associated Laboratory of Paleoecology (PALAB) will continue to develop their usual tasks in the GEO3BCN institute, under the leadership of two of my former PhD students, who have already become independent researchers: Encarni Montoya and Núria Cañellas-Boltà, with whom I will maintain permanent contact and collaboration.

Click here to access my new contact information.

Posted in PALAB

My three pandemic books

Since the declaration of the COVID19 pandemic and the implementation of the corresponding lockdown measures, I have had to work at home, just as many inhabitants of the planet. Fortunately, part of my job is to write scientific publications and that has been my main task in these months, during which I have published three books and have obtained the editorial acceptance for a fourth book to be published next year.

These books have been issued by relevant international publishers like Elsevier/Academic Press and Springer Nature and can be found on the “Books” page of my personal website. You can also click the below titles for more information.

Rull, V. 2020. Paleoecological Research on Easter Island. Insights on Settlement, Climate Changes, Deforestation, and Cultural Shifts. Elsevier, Amsterdam. ISBN 978-0-12-822727-5.

Rull, V. & Carnaval, A. (eds.). 2020. Neotropical Diversification: Patterns and Processes. Springer, Berlin. ISBN 978-3-030-31167-4.

Rull, V. 2020. Quaternary Ecology, Evolution, and Biogeography. Academic Press, London. ISBN 978-0-128-20473-3.

To be published in 2021:

Rull, V. & Stevenson, C. (eds.). The Prehistory of Easter Island (Rapa Nui): Towards an Interdisiplinary Integrative Approach. Springer, Berlin.

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Posted in Books, My publications, Science