A palaeoecological investigation of Tilia cordata in Skelghyll and Common Woods Cumbria

Carried out by: Dr Helen Shaw, Lancaster Environment Centre, Lancaster University

Summary Description:

This project investigated the history of two different woodlands near Windermere: Skelghyll and Common woods. The project used palaeoecological analysis to determine the ecological history of the woodland at the local, or stand, scale via the analysis of pollen from peat deposits in small hollows under the woodland canopy. The results questioned the longevity and presence of small-leaved lime (Tilia cordata) in each of the woodlands in order to answer questions raised by the National Trust on the provenance of this species in the woodland. This information will contribute to future woodland management and may establish the woodlands as ancient and therefore of importance.

Timescale: 2011-2012

SFT Funds Awarded: £1,799

Project Outcomes:

The results from the peat core extracted from a small peat filled basin in Skelghyll woods are exiting as Tilia cordata pollen is found, albeit in low percentages, in most of the samples. Radiocarbon dating results indicate that the 0 cm - 40 cm core stratigraphy spans the last c.1850 years. Tilia cordata pollen is continuously present in the samples over the last c.700 years but there is one gap in Tilia cordata pollen presence at 36 cm and further work is required to establish if this represents a true discontinuity in Tilia presence.

The two radiocarbon dated samples from the core in Common wood show a stratigraphy spanning the last c. 9.3 thousand years in 2 metres of sediment. Tilia cordata pollen is present in the mid sections of the Common wood core rising to a peak of 6 percent of total land pollen recorded at 120 cm depth (between 5000 and 4000 years ago), but after this Tilia pollen presence declines and only a couple of isolated grains are found above 3500 years ago.

The results indicate that both woodlands have a long history, but that whilst Common wood lost its population of Tilia cordata the tree may have continued to flourish in Skelghyll wood. However, further work is required in dating peat from Skelghyll wood at 36 cm and in undertaking sampling for pollen in more detail around this stratigraphic level to establish if there was a short break in Tilia presence in Skelghyll prior to 700 years ago.

How have the results been used?

Results from this research were presented to the conference Trees beyond the Woods in Sheffield in September 2012.

Details of the conference proceedings can be found here.  

Contact Dr Helen Shaw 

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