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

Strong Fuzzy EHLFS to fight simplistic determinism

Although the interpretation of Quaternary records of interrelated environmental–ecological–human processes is necessarily complex, it is often addressed using too-simple deterministic approaches. My latest paper on the subject suggests a holistic framework called EHLFS (Environmental–Human–Landscape Feedbacks and Synergies) to tackle Quaternary complexity.

The EHLFS scheme is a multiple-working-hypotheses framework, able to account for the particular nature of Quaternary research, and is used in combination with the strong inference method of hypothesis testing. The resulting system is called the strong fuzzy EHLFS approach. This approach is explained in some detail and compared with the more extended simplistic determinisms—namely the environmental determinism and the human determinism—as well as with dual determinisms or deterministic approaches based on two contrasting and apparently contradictory and excluding hypotheses or theories. The application of the strong EHLFS methodology is illustrated using the Late Holocene ecological and cultural history of Easter Island since its initial human settlement, a topic that has traditionally been addressed using simplistic and dual deterministic approaches. The strong fuzzy EHLFS approach seems to be a robust framework to address past complex issues where environment, humans and landscape interact, as well as an open system able to encompass new challenging evidence and thorough changes in fundamental research questions.


Rull, V. 2018. Strong Fuzzy EHLFS: A General Conceptual Framework to Address Past Records of Environmental, Ecological and Cultural Change. Quaternary, 1: 10, doi 10.3390/quat1020010.

Posted in My publications, Quaternary Journal

Special issue on island colonization by humans

The journal Quaternary launches a new special issue entitled “The human footprint on islands – the ecological impact of discovery and colonization” edited by Erik de Boer (Institute of earth Science jaume Almera-CSIC, Spain), Lea de Nascimento (University of La Laguna, Spain), Jamie Wood (Landcare Research, New Zealand) and Sandra Nogué (University of Southampton, UK). The discovery and settlement of previously-uninhabited land masses around the world caused dramatic changes to local ecosystems and biotas. These changes were particularly evident on islands, where human settlement usually marked the beginning of a period of habitat destruction and extinctions of local flora and fauna.

Although extinctions are perhaps the most widely known impact, they represent only part of the transformation that was set in motion after an island´s settlement. For example, distribution range shifts and extinctions led to the loss of biotic interactions, while new interactions were created following the introduction of invasive species. In the last decade, an increasing number of studies have reported novel and unprecedented anthropogenic pressures on island ecosystems. An improved understanding of the human footprint on islands will provide valuable information for biodiversity conservation.

In this Special Issue, we will study baseline conditions and drivers of ecosystem change on islands prior to human arrival and examine the timing and mode of human settlement to examine subsequent ecological changes. In particular, we are interested in quantitative studies of island ecosystem changes following their initial discovery and settlement. We welcome contributions from a wide range of Quaternary disciplines—preferably interdisciplinary or multi-proxy studies—across different timescales. Examples include ecological baseline studies (e.g., the effects of sea level changes during glacial and interglacial periods on island biotas), resilience or vulnerability of island biotas to natural and anthropogenic climate change, studies on (pre-)historical human land use, and studies on current threats, such as habitat loss and biological invasion.

Submissions are open. If you like to submit a manuscript to this special issue click here. The deadline is February 28, 2019.

For more information on other Quaternary special issues click here.

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Posted in Quaternary Journal

Quaternary – new special issue on Africa

The journal Quaternary launches a new special issue entitled “Appying the Quaternary in Africa: the role of the past in supporting the future” edited by Robert Marchant (University of York, UK), Lindsey Gillson (University of Cape Town, South Africa) and Stephen M. Rucina (National Museum of Kenya). Africa, more than many continents, is highly reliant on the natural capital and resources for underpinning many national economies. Climate change, and how this will impact on ecosystems, is highly uncertain, likewise, the associated impacts on biodiversity, protected areas and socioeconomic benefits are largely unknown. One of the key findings from Quaternary science has been the documentation of large and rapid fluctuations in wetlands and lakes, driven by regional hydrological variability. This climatic variability has had massive impacts on water and grazing refuges during periods of drought, and is predicted to do so in the future, as pressures on these natural resources intensify due to fragmentation and increasing human populations.

As these pressures continue to intensify and modify natural resources, there is a need for policies and practice to promote successful adaptation strategies. Before this can occur, an appreciation is needed about how people perceive climate change, their current adaptation measures, and other factors that may influence decisions to adapt current practices. Again, salutary lessons can be learned from a historical perspective and longer-term Quaternary perspective. Meeting, and addressing, the challenges that African ecosystems face in a world of rising populations makes the need to understand human-environment interactions (past, present and future) more pressing, particularly because it is only through people—from local communities to policy makers—that a sustainable mode of human-environment interaction will be desired, implemented and hopefully achieved.

This Special Issue welcomes papers from a wide range of disciplines on how a Quaternary perspective on ecosystem and environmental change can be used to assess the challenges to future management of natural capital and natural resources.

Submissions are open. If you like to submit a manuscript to this special issue click here. The deadline is December 31, 2018.

For more information on other Quaternary special issues click here.

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Posted in Quaternary Journal

First issue of the new open-access journal Quaternary

The first issue of the newly-created open-access jorunal called ‘Quaternary‘ has just been released. This issue contains eight papers: two editorials, a communication, four research papers and a review. Five of these papers belong to the special issue ‘Advances in Quaternary Studies: the Contribution of the Mammalian Fossil Record‘ and one is part of the special issue entitled ‘Feature Papers in Quaternary‘.

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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Tune of the week

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Curso de postgrado sobre las bases científicas del Antropoceno

El Departamento de Postgrado y Especialización del CSIC abre un nuevo curso titulado: El Antropoceno: bases científicas, que tendrá lugar entre el 15 de enero y el 15 de febrero de 2019, en el Instituto de Ciencias de la Tierra Jaume Almera, en Barcelona.

El objetivo de este curso es proporcionar las bases científicas sobre las que se sostiene el concepto de Antropoceno, sin ninguna preconcepción específica, para que los asistentes se formen su propia opinión sobre un tema tan actual y polémico. El Antropoceno, definido como una nueva época geológica caracterizada por la huella humana global sobre el Sistema Tierra, se ha convertido en un término muy usado en una gran variedad de disciplinas. Sin embargo, todavía hay una disparidad de ideas y criterios sobre el origen y la validez científica de este término. En este curso se discuten estos aspectos para una audiencia no especializada. Las posibles consecuencias de la presión humana incontrolada sobre el Sistema Tierra y la necesidad de reconsiderar nuestra relación con el planeta no se cuestiona. El curso está centrado en la utilización de este argumento para proponer que hemos entrado en una nueva época de la Escala del Tiempo Geológico.

El curso está dirigido a graduados universitarios y estudiantes de último curso de una amplia variedad de disciplinas, tanto de ciencias como de humanidades y ciencias sociales.

Más información aquí

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