New book on Quaternary Ecology, Evolution and Biogeography

A new book entitled “The Quaternary: Ecology and Evolution with Glaciations” has been approved last week by Elsevier-Academic Press and will be published in 2020.

The book is intended for a wide audience including researchers, teachers, graduate students and people interested on how the study of the past can contribute to understand our present biosphere and help predicting its future. The language is affordable for a wide range of readers and the more specialized terms and concepts are explained for a better understanding. The book is subdivided into six chapters, with an introduction and an epilogue, and is profussely illustrated, with 100 full-color figures.


  1. Introduction
  2. The Climate: Continuous Variability and Impact on the Earth System
  3. The Organisms: Adaptation, Extinction and Spatial Reorganizations
  4. The Biodiversity: Diversification or Impoverishment?
  5. The Communities: Adjustements, Innovations and Revolutions
  6. The Humans: Occupation and Humanization of the Planet
  7. The future: Natural Cycles and Human Interference
  8. Epilog: The Missing Link between Ecology and Evolution


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Posted in Books, My publications, Science

Easter Island discovery: all options remain open

According to the current paradigm, the remote and enigmatic Easter Island, in the southeastern Pacific Ocean, is thought to have been discovered and settled by Polynesian sailors between about 800 and 1200 CE. However, recent studies using the latest genomic, anthropological and paleoecological techniques have revived constroversy about a potential Amerindian discovery before Polynesian settlement.

The whole story can be read in a recent revision published in the journal Quaternary, where all the existing hypotheses on Easter Island discovery and settlement are reviewed and evaluated in light of the existing archaeological, anthropological, historical and paleoecological evidence. The reference and the abstract of this review are provided at following.

Reference: Rull, V. 2019. Human Discovery and Settlement of the Remote Easter Island (SE Pacific). Quaternary 2, 15.

Abstract. The discovery and settlement of the tiny and remote Easter Island (Rapa Nui) has been a classical controversy for decades. Present-day aboriginal people and their culture are undoubtedly of Polynesian origin, but it has been debated whether Native Americans discovered the island before the Polynesian settlement. Until recently, the paradigm was that Easter Island was discovered and settled just once by Polynesians in their millennial-scale eastward migration across the Pacific. However, the evidence for cultivation and consumption of an American plant—the sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas)—on the island before the European contact (1722 CE), even prior to the Europe-America contact (1492 CE), revived controversy. This paper reviews the classical archaeological, ethnological and paleoecological literature on the subject and summarizes the information into four main hypotheses to explain the sweet potato enigma: the long-distance dispersal hypothesis, the back-and-forth hypothesis, the Heyerdahl hypothesis, and the newcomers hypothesis. These hypotheses are evaluated in light of the more recent evidence (last decade), including molecular DNA phylogeny and phylogeography of humans and associated plants and animals, physical anthropology (craniometry and dietary analysis), and new paleoecological findings. It is concluded that, with the available evidence, none of the former hypotheses may be rejected and, therefore, all possibilities remain open. For future work, it is recommended to use the multiple working hypotheses framework and the strong inference method of hypothesis testing, rather than the ruling theory approach, very common in Easter Island research.

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Posted in My publications, Quaternary Journal

Pre-order the book on Pantepui biodiversity

The book entitled “Biodiversity of Pantepui: the Pristine Lost World of the Neotropical Guiana Highlands” (Eds., V. Rull, T. Vegas-Vilarrúbia, O. Huber and J.C. Señaris) has been finished and is now in production by Elsevier/Academic Press. Pre-orders with a 15% discount can be placed following this link. The expected date of release is July 1, 2019. Click here for a video of the unique Pantepui landscape.

The book provides the most updated and comprehensive knowledge on the composition, origin and evolution of the biota of the Pantepui biogeographical province. It synthesizes historical information and recent discoveries, covering the main biogeographic patterns and evolutionary trends. Written by international experts on the biodiversity, biogeography, evolution and conservation of this pristine land, this book explores the environmental and biogeographical factors, along with the characteristics that make Pantepui a unique natural laboratory to study the origin and evolution of Neotropical biodiversity using only natural drivers.

The book covers organisms living in Pantepui, including vascular plants, mosses, algae, aquatic insects, butterflies, land snails, scorpions, birds, amphibians, reptiles, and mammals, with later sections delving into the potential effects of global warming and current conservational efforts to combat these threats. This book will be an important resource for researchers, ecologists and conservationists who not only want to understand the biodiversity and history of this pristine land, but also help to help conserve and protect it from environmental and human damages.


Rull, V., Vegas-Vilarrúbia, T., Huber, O. & Señaris, J.C. 2019. Biodiversity of Pantepui: the Pristine Lost World of the Neotropical Guiana Highlands. Elsevier/Academic Press, Cambridge. ISBN 9780128155912.

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Posted in Books, My publications

Palynology and Vegetation History – new book

A new book has been published in the Frontiers Research Topic series entitled “Palynology and Vegetation History“, to commemorate the centenary of the first quantitative pollen diagram, produced by the Swedish geologist Lennart von Post, the founder of paleoecological palynology. The book has been edited by Valentí Rull (ICTJA-CSIC, Spain), Encarni Montoya (ICTA-CSIC, Spain), Thomas Giesecke (Georg-August Univ. Göttingen, Germany) and Jesse Morris (Univ. Utah, USA) and consists of 18 papers by 91 contributors from Africa, North and South America, Europe and Oceania.

The main aim of the book is to provide a thorough view of the use of palynology in aspects such as the reconstruction of Quaternary vegetation and environmental changes, the role of natural and anthropogenic drivers in the development of the Quaternary vegetation, the shaping of present-day ecological and biogeographical patterns, the potential application of this knowledge in biodiversity conservation and landscape restoration and the development of new methods of pollen analysis and data management. The Research Topic is subdivided into four main conceptual parts, namely (1) modern analog studies; (2) land cover estimates from pollen data; (3) vegetation dynamics reconstructions from Europe, North and South America, Africa and Oceania; and (4) large-scale reviews and meta-analyses. Hopefully, this Research Topic will serve to appraise the state of the art of modern palynology and highlight the usefulness of this discipline in long-term ecological research.


Rull, V., Montoya, E., Giesecke, T., Morris, J. L. (2019). Palynology and Vegetation History. Frontiers Media, Lausanne, 286 p. ISBN 978-2-88945-687-1.

The book can be freely downloaded here

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The third issue of the journal Quaternary has been published

The third issue of the first volume (2018) of the open-access journal Quaternary has been released. Clich here to see the contents in the official journal webpage or download the Table of Contents in pdf.

To receive quarterly updates of the journal’s table of contents, subscribe to the e-mail alerts in the journal website.

Click here to submit a manuscript and here to propose a special issue.

Aims and scopeEditorial BoardAuthor’s instructions

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What if the ‘Anthropocene’ is not formalised as new geological epoch?

In the coming years, the Anthropocene Working Group (AWG) will submit its proposal on the ‘Anthropocene’ as a new geological epoch to the International Commission on Stratigraphy (ICS). If approved, the proposal will be send to the International Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS) for ratification. If ratified, the current Holocene epoch will be officially terminated. The ‘Anthropocene’ is a broadly used term and concept and, for many, its official acceptance is only a matter of time. However, the AWG proposal, in its present state, seems to not fully meet the ICS requirements for a new geological epoch.

In a recent paper published in Quaternary, I ask what could happen if the current ‘Anthropocene’ proposal is not formalised by the ICS/IUGS. The possible stratigraphic alternatives are evaluated on the basis of the more recent literature and the personal opinions of distinguished AWG and ICS members. The eventual impact on environmental sciences and on non-scientific sectors, where the ‘Anthropocene’ seems already firmly rooted and de facto accepted as a new geological epoch, are also discussed.


Rull, V. 2018. What if the ‘Anthropocene’ is not formalized as a new geological series/epoch? Quaternary, 1: 24, doi 10.3390/quat1030024.

Posted in anthropocene, My publications

Second issue of the new open-access journal Quaternary

The second issue the recently created open-access jorunal Quaternary has just been released. This issue contains ten papers: an editorial on Quaternary highlights, a paleoinsight and eight research papers. Five of these research papers belong to the special issue ‘Advances in Quaternary Studies: the Contribution of the Mammalian Fossil Record‘ and three are part of the special issue entitled ‘Special External Effects on Fluvial System Evolution‘.

The journal covers all aspects of Quaternary science, embracing the whole range of scientific fields related to geological, geographical, biological, physical, chemical, environmental and human sciences. There are no limits on space, figures and color (see the author’s instructions). More details are available in the journal website, where the inaugural editorial paper can be read and downloaded.

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Special issue on past plant diversity changes

The journal Quaternary launches a new special issue entitled “Past plant diversity changes” edited by Laura Parducci (Uppsala University, Sweden), Rachid Cheddadi (Université de Montepellier, France) and Keith Bennett (University of St. Andrews, UK). This Special Issue stems from the Conference on Past Plant Diversity Changes held in October 2018 in Rabat, Morocco and aims to examine the relationship between past environmental changes and their impacts on different aspects of plants species diversity during the glacial-interglacial climate changes of the Quaternary.

Natural past climate trends have driven major ecosystem changes and have shaped species distributions across the planet. Modern and future changes in diversity will be driven by complex interactions between human activities and the global climate system. In this modern context, plant species have to evolve locally or migrate to more suitable habitats. The past can provide us with fascinating information on how species reacted to different climatic situations, which could enlighten us about how to successfully manage future plant species diversity.

Contributions exploring the relationship between past environmental changes (including climate) and species distributions, their long-term survival and persistence in macro and microrefugia during climatically unfavorable time periods, their migration capacity and rates to recolonize available areas, their genetic diversity, and the lessons we can draw from the past to help conserving plant species are welcome.

Submissions are open. If you like to submit a manuscript to this special issue click here. The deadline is April 15, 2019.

For more information on other Quaternary special issues click here.

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Posted in Journals, Quaternary Journal

Paleoecology of Easter Island – new eBook

After more than three decades of paleoecological research, the potential role of climatic and anthropogenic drivers on Easter Island’s ecological and cultural change is still under discussion.


A new eBook published by Frontiers (Lausane, Switzerland) provides a synthetic view of the topic using evidence from different research fields such as paleoecology, archaeology, history and molecular phylogenetics. A holistic approach is provided at the end to combine the results of these research fields into a comprehensive framework able to account for most of the available multidisciplinary evidence.

The eBook is a Research Topic of the journal Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution (section Paleoecology) and is edited by V. Rull and S. Giralt. It is subdivided into four sections: (i) paleoecological overview, (ii) human colonization, (iii) collapse or resilience? and (iv) holistic approach, and contains 10 papers by a total of 42 authors.

This eBook is dedicated to the memory of John R. Flenley, the pioneer of paleoecological study of Easter Island, who passed away on June 22, 2018, and can be freely downloaded in the Research Topic website.

Reference: Rull, V. & Giralt, S. (eds). 2018. Paleoecology of Easter Island: Natural and Anthropogenic Drivers of Ecological Change. Frontiers Research Topics, Lausane. ISBN 978-2-88945-562-1. Download the eBook

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Posted in Books, My publications