Changes of Vegetation and Plant Resources in the Southern Caucasus – Plant Biodiversity in TimE and Space (PlantBITES)

The scientific goals of the joint project are to study the history of vegetation of Southern Caucasus since the first occupation with early humans within a complex topographic setting and in relation to climate. The project will reconstruct the environment of different time periods under different global climatic situations to increase our understanding of the natural and anthropogenic influences of global climatic changes on regional vegetation and ecosystems. A database on wild useful plants emphasizes vegetation as an essential resource of humans.

High-resolution analysis of the Early Pleistocene regional environment before, during and after the first expansion of early Homo into Southern Spain

High-resolution pollen analyses of core material include the application of quantitative methods for climate and vegetation reconstructions that will enable detailed insights in the regional response of Western Mediterranean vegetation on global climate change in the course of Early Pleistocene orbital climatic cycles. To put the results into a broader perspective, the comparison with other contemporary vegetation successions/cyclicities from Western Eurasia will provide insights in larger-scale atmospheric circulation patterns in the Mediterranean realm and their changes with orbital forcing as a basis to reconstruct larger-scale vegetation changes, which will shed light on potential corridors of early human expansions into Europe.

Plant environment and resource exploitation in Southwest Ethiopia from >50 ka to the present

Southwest Ethiopia is a kea research area for the cultural development of modern humans (Homo sapiens) and their expansion to Eurasia (Out of Africa 2). Well-preserved archaeological plant remains (charred wood and phytoliths) from rockshelter sites, located in the montane forest zone, offer the chance to reconstruct the local vegetation and its changes in relation to global and regional climate fluctuations during the last 50.000 years. A special focus of our research is the detection of early human impact on the vegetation, especially fire. Ethnobotanical data on the edible plants of the Afromontane forest and the adjacent vegetation zones are used for modelling the exploitation potential of the different plant communities for human foragers throughout the late Pleistocene and Holocene.

Palaeovegetation at Koobi Fora (Lake Turkana, Kenya) and implications for early hominins

Koobi Fora is one of the most important areas for the evolution of early Homo and related hominins. Petrified woods from Koobi Fora with ages between 4.5 and 1.9 million years, contemporary with the hominin fossils, are valuable sources of information about the ancient vegetation. The good preservation of the petrified woods allows for low-level identification and will add valuable data on the palaeoenvironment during this critical period of hominin evolution.