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Elena Pearce

Natural baselines in European interglacial landscapes


MSci Ecology, Evolution and Conservation (Imperial College London)

PGCE (Birmingham City University)

BA History and Anthropology (University of Birmingham)

Host University: Aarhus University, Denmark

Primary Supervisor: Jens-Christian Svenning

Country of Origin: United Kingdom

Languages: English

About Me

Natural baselines tell us what landscapes would have looked like in the past, before the strong influence of humans. They also help us to understand what to expect if we were to carry out large scale rewilding initiatives.

My research is focused on recreating natural baselines in Europe, particularly to see how forested or open landscapes would have been. I’m looking at baselines from two different periods: before Homo sapiens arrival to Europe (the Eemian interglacial ~130,000 years ago) and after their spread across the continent (the Early Holocene ~11,700 years ago). This is to establish multiple baselines and gain an insight into the effects of early humans on the landscape.

Whether the landscape existed as a closed-canopy forest or open savannah is dependent on the role of large grazing animals and other disturbance factors, such as fire. Understanding the dynamics between vegetation structure and disturbance also forms a large part of my work, as this is how I will determine what Europe would have looked like in my two time-frames.

I work with Jens-Christian Svenning at Aarhus University, Denmark, in the department of Ecoinformatics and Biodiversity. Before starting the position, I was working with schools in the UK to bring environmental education and activism into the curriculum. I also used to be a school teacher! I’m interested, therefore, in engaging people with our natural world, and see rewilding as an exciting and much needed way to do this. 





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