Pollen-vegetation richness and diversity relationships in the tropics

William D. Gosling*, Adele C.M. Julier, Stephen Adu-Bredu, Gloria D. Djagbletey, Wesley T. Fraser, Phillip E. Jardine, Barry H. Lomax, Yadvinder Malhi, Emmanuel A. Manu, Francis E. Mayle, Sam Moore

*Corresponding author for this work

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Tracking changes in biodiversity through time requires an understanding of the relationship between modern diversity and how this diversity is preserved in the fossil record. Fossil pollen is one way in which past vegetation diversity can be reconstructed. However, there is limited understanding of modern pollen-vegetation diversity relationships from biodiverse tropical ecosystems. Here, pollen (palynological) richness and diversity (Hill N1) are compared with vegetation richness and diversity from forest and savannah ecosystems in the New World and Old World tropics (Neotropics and Palaeotropics). Modern pollen data were obtained from artificial pollen traps deployed in 1-ha vegetation study plots from which vegetation inventories had been completed in Bolivia and Ghana. Pollen counts were obtained from 15 to 22 traps per plot, and aggregated pollen sums for each plot were > 2,500. The palynological richness/diversity values from the Neotropics were moist evergreen forest = 86/6.8, semi-deciduous dry forest = 111/21.9, wooded savannah = 138/31.5, and from the Palaeotropics wet evergreen forest = 144/28.3, semi-deciduous moist forest = 104/4.4, forest-savannah transition = 121/14.1; the corresponding vegetation richness/diversity was 100/36.7, 80/38.7 and 71/39.4 (Neotropics), and 101/54.8, 87/45.5 and 71/34.5 (Palaeotropics). No consistent relationship was found between palynological richness/diversity, and plot vegetation richness/diversity, due to the differential influence of other factors such as landscape diversity, pollination strategy, and pollen source area. Palynological richness exceeded vegetation richness, while pollen diversity was lower than vegetation diversity. The relatively high global diversity of tropical vegetation was found to be reflected in the pollen rain.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)411-418
Number of pages8
JournalVegetation History and Archaeobotany
Issue number2
Early online date9 Oct 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2018


  • Forest-savannah
  • Neotropics
  • Palaeotropics
  • Palynology
  • Pollen trap
  • Savanna
  • UKRI
  • NERC
  • NE/K005294/1
  • NE/1014705/1


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