Earliest Holocene vegetation history and island biogeography of the Isle of Man, British Isles


*Richard Chiverrell, Department of Geography, University of Liverpool, Roxby Building, Liverpool L69 3BX, UK. E-mail: rchiv@liv.ac.uk


Aim  To present radiocarbon dated early Holocene pollen analytical data from two sites on the northern plain of the Isle of Man and to discuss the implications of the vegetation history in relation to severance of the island from the British Isles and to identify further evidence for divergent biogeographical development previously exemplified by the survival and apparent dwarfism of late glacial Megaloceros giganteus (Giant Deer).

Location  The Isle of Man, British Isles.

Methods  Pollen analysis and AMS radiocarbon dating of late glacial to early Holocene lake sequences at Pollies and Curragh-y-Cowle on the northern plain of the Isle of Man.

Results  The pollen data indicate a prolonged period of pre-woodland vegetation after the late Glacial/Holocene transition, which lasted for most of the first post-glacial millennium. This persistence of pre-forest environments meant that the expansion of Betula woodland occurred later in this part of the Isle of Man than in adjacent areas of Britain and Ireland.

Conclusions  The Isle of Man, in the northern Irish Sea, was isolated from Britain during the late Glacial period perhaps explaining the delayed arrival of tree species. Delayed rise of the Holocene forest compared with surrounding regions probably reflects severance of the land-bridge with Cumbria, but also could be a function of climate changes during the early Holocene and local environmental conditions. Late survival and the dwarfism of the Megaloceros giganteus (Giant Deer) fauna is another example of biogeographical divergence during the early Holocene/late Glacial of the Isle of Man. The delayed afforestation and absence of human hunters in the Manx early Holocene offers a permissive environmental context for the as yet unproven survival of Megaloceros into the early Holocene.