What do Easter Island, the Pyrenees and the Caribbean have in common?

This year, I have published a book on the prehistory of Easter Island, coedited with Christopher Stevenson, from the Virginia Commonwealth University (USA). The book has been issued by Springer Nature and is a collection of selected papers on the settlement, cultural development, deforestation and sociecological collapse of this emblematic Pacific island.

Now I am writing two more books that have already been approved by Springer and are planned for July and December 2023.

One of these 2023 books (July) is coauthored with Teresa Vegas, from the University of Barcelona, and deals with the history of Pyrenean vegetation during the last 3000 years (since the Bronze Age). The book is based on the Lake Montcortès varved sedimentary sequence, a reference section that I discovered in 2004 and encompasses the longest continuous high-resolution Mediterranean record of vegetation dynamics for the last millennia.

I am the sole author of the second 2023 book (December), which is on the origin and evolution of Caribbean mangroves. This book is also based on palynological work that I developed in the 1990s and includes the Eocene origin of these plant communities, their Oligocene revolution and further Neogene diversification, and the response of mangrove ecosystems to Pleistocene glaciations and Holocene human impact.

These three books are a sample of the variety of environments (coastal, montane, insular, continental), biomes (tropical, subtropical, temperate), time intervals (historical, prehistoric, millennial, deep-time), cultures (Polynesian, European, Amerindian), subjects (vegetation, climate, eustasy, tectonism, anthropization) and disciplines (ecology, evolution, biogeography) that I have studied along my scientific career (1980-present).

References

Rull, V. & Stevenson, C. M. 2022. The Prehistory of Rapa Nui (Easter Island). Towards an Interdisciplinary Integrative Framework. Springer Nature, Cham.

Rull, V. 2022. The Caribbean mangroves: An Eocene innovation with no Cretaceous precursorsEarth-Science Reviews, 231: 104070.

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 millenniaQuaternary Science Reviews, 268: 107128.

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Posted in Books, My publications

Cannabis entered the Iberian Peninsula well before its domestication

A study shows that Cannabis entered the Iberian Peninsula in its wild form during the Upper Paleolithic and underwent two further introduction waves, one in the Neolithic and another in the Middle Ages, likely in cultivated forms

The main routes of entry were situated in the NE and the dispersal occurred by terrestrial and maritime pathways, depending on the epoch. The spreading across the whole IP did not occur until the Bronze Age

Until now, the tempo and mode of colonization of the Iberian Peninsula (IP) by Cannabis sativa, its further internal spreading and the potential cultural and environmental factors involved remained unknown. But a recent meta-analysis of the available evidence carried out by a team of 12 palynologists from across the IP, led by Valentí Rull, has brought to light the historical biogeography of this plant since its pre-domestication arrival.

After the analysis of a nearly comprehensive database of almost 60 IP sites with palynological evidence of Cannabis, the research team concluded that the first scattered records of this pollen type date from the Middle and Upper Paleolithic (150,000 to 12,000 yr BP) and would have entered the IP by maritime (Mediterranean) or terrestrial (European) pathways.

A first introduction burst, likely in a cultivated form, occurred during the Neolithic (7000-5000 yr BP) using similar paths. A period of reduced Cannabis arrivals (mostly via maritime pathway) occurred between the Chalcolithic and the Roman Epoch (4500-2000 yr BP), when the innermost parts of the IP were colonized (Late Bronze).

A second, likely anthropogenic, introduction acceleration took place in the Middle Ages (1500 yr BP onward) using the maritime and continental pathways. Maximum cultivation and hemp retting activity was recorded during Modern Ages (16th-19th centuries), coinciding with the increased demand of hemp fiber to supply the Spanish royal navy for imperial expansion and commerce.

A potential link between Cannabis colonization/introduction bursts and climatic warmings has been observed that should be tested with future studies. Regional moisture variations seem to be less influential. The results of this research will be compared with archaeological and historical evidence to clarify the role of human migrations and cultural changes in the historical biogeography of Cannabis in the IP.

Reference

Rull, V., Burjachs, F., Carrión, J.S., Ejarque, A., Fernández, S., López-Sáez, J.A., Luelmo-Lautenschlaeger, R., Ochando, J., Pérez-Díaz, S., Revelles, J., Riera, S., Rodríguez, S. 2023. Historical biogeography of Cannabis in the Iberian Peninsula: a probabilistic approach based on palynological evidencePerspectives in Plant Ecology, Evolution and Systematics, 58: 125704.

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Posted in Cannabis, My publications

Quaternary has received its first CiteScore and is waiting for its Impact Factor Index

The open-access journal Quaternary was launched in 2018 and this year has received its first CiteScore from Scopus, which situates this publication among those with the greatest impact in the specialty

In 2017, the scientific publisher MDPI commissioned me to launch and rule an international open-access journal called Quaternary. As the founding Editor-in-Chief, I defined the general policy of the journal, its aims and scope, and organized the advisory and editorial boards, which were composed of over 60 prestigious researchers, many of them among the most recognized of the discipline, who kindly accepted my invitation to participate in this initiative. Click here to read the inaugural paper.

Shortly after, MDPI began the procedures for the journal to be included in the main databases that measure the impact of scientific journals and classify them accordingly, especially Scopus (CiteScore) and Clarivate (Impact Factor). As is known, these organizations monitor the candidate journals for several years, to check and evaluate aspects such as frequency, continuity and quality, among others.

After 4 years, which is the minimum required for a decision, Quaternary has already received its first CiteScore and next year it will receive its first Impact Factor. In the Scopus classification, Quaternary has a CiteScore of 4.3 and ranks 42 out of 155 journals (top 27%; close to the Q1/Q2 boundary), in the Earth and Planetary Sciences category. This situates the journal among those with the greatest impact within the Quaternary discipline. Next fall we’ll see where it stands according to Clarivate’s impact index.

I served the journal for the period 2017-2020 and currently, the Editor-in-Chief is Jef Vandenberghe, from the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, but the same editorial guidelines that I established in 2018 remain, with practically the same advisory and editorial boards, with some additions. The journal is quarterly and until now 20 issues with >130 papers have been published, corresponding to the last 5 years (2018-2022).

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Posted in Journals

Plants launches a new special issue on mangroves

Mangroves are considered to be among the world’s most threatened ecosystems. These transitional land-sea wetland forests dominate tropical/subtropical coasts all over the world and are essential for the maintenance of terrestrial and marine biodiversity, as well as for the functioning of global biogeochemical processes.

These ecosystems are highly sensitive to natural and anthropogenic changes such as climatic shifts, sea-level oscillations, deforestation, habitat loss, invasion by alien species, coastal erosion, global warming, increasing atmospheric CO2 concentration and extreme weather events, among others. It has been estimated that under current deforestation rates, mangroves may disappear by next century.

The journal Plants (JFI 4.658; Q1) is launching a special issue entitled Mangrove Plant Communities: Ecology, Evolution and Biogeography, which is aimed at showing how ecological, paleoecological, geographical, biogeographical and evolutionary studies may contribute not only to the understanding of present-day mangrove ecosystems but also to inform their conservation.

Contributions of any type (original research, review, brief report, comment, essay, opinion, hypothesis, perspective, etc.) and from any geographical and temporal framework dealing with the origin, evolution, ecology and biogeography of mangroves are welcome. Papers using novel methodologies such as last-minute molecular phylogenetic, biomarker or image-analysis developments, among others, are especially welcome.

Potential contributors are encouraged to contact the guest editor for any new ideas that may improve mangrove knowledge and are not specified in this brief summary.

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Posted in My publications, special issues

The best news of the year

The fourth annual edition of the 2% world’s most-cited scientists, also known as the Stanford ranking, has just been published. For the fourth consecutive year, I am listed in this ranking, this time within the top 0.5%.

The index on which this classification is based (c) differs from the classic h-index in that it excludes self-citations and takes into account the number of authors and their position in the authorship, which eliminates self-propaganda and minimizes fake authorship. This ranking has two versions, one that considers the entire career of a researcher and another that measures the most recent impact, that of the last year.

In the general whole-career ranking, I am within the top 0.6%, considering a population of approximately 8 million scientists estimated to exist in the world. In the specialty of paleontology, I am in the 125th position, out of a total of more than 15,500. For the most recent year evaluated (2021), I am in the top 0.5% of the general ranking and the 66th place within the specialty. In my discipline, palynology, I am in the 13th world position considering the entire career and the 7th for the year 2021.

This is good news, for sure, but this has not been, by far, the best news of the year. The best of all has been the birth (one month ago) of my first granddaughter, Olivia, who gives meaning to the rest of my life.

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Posted in My publications

Origin and Evolution of Caribbean Mangroves

Mangroves are forested ecosystems living on intertidal coastal wetlands all over the tropics and subtropics, roughly between the parallels 25ºN and 25ºS. These communities are typically organized around a few dominant tree species, the mangrove-forming trees, and are transitional land-sea ecosystems that play a fundamental role in the maintenance of terrestrial and marine biodiversity and in major biogeochemical cycles, notably the carbon cycle, for which mangroves are relevant sinks.

At present, mangroves have a global extent of nearly 140,000 km2 with the highest proportion in Asia (38%) followed by Latin America and the Caribbean (20%), Africa (20%), Oceania (12%) and North America (8%). During the last four decades, mangroves have experienced a 25-30% reduction in their total extent due to anthropogenic pressure and are one of the World’s most threatened ecosystems. It has been estimated that, under current conditions, mangroves could disappear within the next century.

Knowing when and how mangroves originated and evolved under the action of natural (climatic, eustatic) and anthropogenic drivers is important not only to understand the present status of the ecosystems but also to inform their conservation, in the face of direct (deforestation) and indirect (global change) anthropogenic stresses. This year, I have initiated a biogeographical, ecological and evolutionary study on the history of the Caribbean mangroves from their Eocene origin (ca. 45 Ma) to their Quaternary (the last 2.6 Ma) reorganizations, under the action of Pleistocene glacial-interglacial cycles, followed by the Holocene (the last 11.7 ka) human disturbance.

This thorough review will be published in a series of four papers and a book. The first paper about the Eocene origin has already been published in the journal Earth-Science Reviews [1] and the second, which deals with the Eocene/Oligocene revolution of mangroves [2], has been submitted to the same journal. Two more papers, one on the Miocene to present diversification and another on the Pleistocene-Holocene reorganization are currently in writing. The book proposal will be submitted to Springer Nature, where I have recently published a couple of books on other subjects, such as Neotropical diversification [3] and the prehistory of Easter Island [4].

References

  1. Rull, V. 2022. The Caribbean mangroves: an Eocene innovation with no Cretaceous precursors. Earth-Science Reviews 231, 104070.
  2. Rull, V. 2022. Eocene/Oligocene global disruption and the revolution of Caribbean mangroves. Submitted to Earth-Science Reviews. Preprint available at EarthArXiv, doi 10.31233/X5835T.
  3. Rull, V. & Carnaval, A.C. 2020. Neotropical Diversification. Patterns and Processes. Springer Nature, Cham.
  4. Rull, V. & Stevenson, C.M. 2022. The Prehistory of Rapa Nui (Easter Island). Toward an Interdisciplinary Integrative Framework. Springer Nature, Cham.
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The Prehistory of Easter Island

This book addresses the main enigmas of Easter Island’s (Rapa Nui, in the Polynesian language) prehistory from the time of initial settlement to European contact with a multidisciplinary perspective. The main topics include: (i) the time of first settlement and the origin of the first settlers; (ii) the main features of prehistoric Rapanui culture and their changes; (iii) the deforestation of the island and its timing and causes; (iv) the extinction of the indigenous biota, (v) the occurrence of climatic shifts and their potential effects on socioecological trends; (vi) the evidence for a cultural and demographic collapse before European contact; and (vii) the influence of Europeans on prehistoric Rapanui society.

Download the front matter.

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 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 points of view and make their own interpretations on each of the subjects considered. The book is intended for a wide audience including graduate students, advanced undergraduate students, university teachers and researchers interested in 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.

Reference

Rull, V. & Stevenson, C.M. (eds.) 2022. The Prehistory of Rapa Nui (Easter Island). Towards an Integrative Interdisciplinary Framework. Springer Nature, Cham.

Click here for more books published during the last five years

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Posted in archaeology, biodiversity, Books, My publications

Integrity

Grigoriy Perelman (St Petersburg, 13 June 1966) is a mathematician who refused the Fields Medal – considered the Nobel Prize of mathematics – and a Clay Mathematics Institute‘s million-dollar prize for solving the Poincaré conjecture, one of the seven Millennium Problems. In 2005, Perelman withdrew from mathematics and quit the math community because he was disappointed by the lack of ethics. He said:

“It is not people who break ethical standards who are regarded as aliens. It is people like me who are isolated.”

“Of course, there are many mathematicians who are more or less honest. But almost all of them are conformists. They are more or less honest, but they tolerate those who are not honest.”

“I had a choice, either to make some ugly thing – a fuss about the math community’s lack of integrity – or to be treated as a pet. That is why I had to quit.”

Read the whole story at:

Nasar, S, & Gruber, D. 2006. Manifold destiny. The New Yorker, August 28, 44-57.

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Posted in Science, Society

A new perspective on the origin of Neotropical mangroves

Mangroves are forested ecosystems that dominate tropical and subtropical coasts all over the world. Currently, these ecosystems are thought to have originated in the Cretaceous, on the coasts of the former Tethys Sea, and evolved into divergent Paleotropical and Neotropical mangrove communities after the closure of this pantropical sea. However, a fresh reconsideration of the available fossil pollen evidence from the Neotropical region suggests a different evolutionary framework.

According to the new conception, which will be published soon in the journal Earth-Science Reviews, the emergence of mangrove communities in the Caribbean region, the cradle of Neotropical mangroves, occurred in the Eocene and constituted an evolutionary novelty with no Cretaceous precursors. Actually, no reliable evidence has been found for the occurrence of Caribbean mangrove communities before the Eocene, when Neotropical mangroves originated de novo disconnected from the Paleotropical realm.

Distribution of mangroves (in red) around the world. The Caribbean region is highlighted by a green box. Image source

The keystone development for the origin of Neotropical mangroves was the evolutionary appearance of mangrove-forming trees, without which mangrove ecosystems cannot exist at all. In the Caribbean region, the first mangrove-forming tree was the Eocene ancestor of the present tea mangrove (Pelliciera rhizophorae), which is now restricted to a small region of Central America but was widespread across the Neotropics during the Eocene. Tea-mangrove trees acted as “condensation nuclei” for the organization and development of these novel ecosystems by recruiting species pre-adapted to tidal conditions, which led to the formation of the typical composition and structure of mangrove communities.

Tea mangroves (Pelliciera rhizophorae) from Costa Rica, Central America. Image source

This novel and challenging evolutionary scenario would lead to the reconsideration of current theories about the origin and evolution of mangroves on a global scale, as most of them are based on the still undemonstrated existence of hypothetical Cretaceous precursors.

Reference

Rull, V. 2022. The Caribbean mangroves: an Eocene innovation with no Cretaceous precursors. Earth-Sience Reviews, doi 10.1016/j.earscirev.2022.104070.

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Restoration paleoecology

Paleoecological records are useful in that they inform ecological restoration efforts by not only providing the most suitable pre-anthropic baselines, but also identifying unrealistic and unfeasible restoration targets due to climatic, cultural, and economic constraints

In a short paper recently published in the PAGES (Past Ecological Changes) Magazine, I disclose some cases in which paleoecology demonstrates that preanthropic scenarios are impossible to be attained for climatic handicaps or are inappropriate restoration targets for cultural reasons.

The case studies come from: 1) the Gran Sabana (northern South America), 2) the Pyrenees (SW Europe), 3) Easter Island (SE Pacific) and 4) the Azores Islands (N Atlantic).

Read the full story at:

Rulll, V. 2022. Paleoecology helps optimize restoration efforts by identifying unrealistic pre-anthropic targets. PAGES Magazine, 30: 18-19.

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Posted in My publications, Society