The project will use the rich array of existing data, drawing on ecological and palaeoecological databases of ecological timeseries and augmenting these with additional published but currently unarchived datasets. Existing sources will include the global BioTIME database (developed at St Andrews ), the 42 year UKCEH Countryside Survey and Ecological Change Network monitoring datasets, and records drawn from European and global palaeoecological databases such as the European Pollen Database, Neotoma and Pangaea.
What/where? The project will focus on aquatic and terrestrial systems. In freshwater systems the links between hydrological conditions and ecosystem health are well-established for flora and fauna from ecological and palaeolimnological perspectives. Long-term, specifically pre-industrial, baselines are embedded in the EU Water Framework Directive, providing legislative motivation to connect past change with contemporary management and “good condition” goals. While this provides strong impetus for integrated monitoring and assessment, routine data integration and uptake of palaeo-data in freshwater management remain limited. Records of terrestrial land cover dynamics are abundant in ecology and palaeoecology. These provide scope to analyse both macroecological and ecosystem-specific trends.
How? The project will use a selection of complementary metrics to compare cross-time insights into ecosystem dynamics and establish the complementary strengths of each source. The metrics will be refined by the student but may include (1) biodiversity: the merits and limitations of differing measurements are well-established across the disciplines; (2) species associations and community reorganisation: essential for understanding resilience, critical thresholds and the viability of community-based conservation goals; (3) environmental indicators, such as Ellenberg indicators ; and (4) functional traits: a rapidly growing field of research in ecology that is beginning to be explored in palaeoecology [13-14].
Analyses will (1) begin with the shared time period to examine contrasts and similarities across disciplines, (2) test the sensitivity of palaeoecological and ecological trends to variations in spatial, temporal and taxonomic resolution (e.g. how robust are trends to changes in functional or broad habitat groups, or to using lower taxonomic resolution; the latter is a frequent concern with palaeo-data), and (3) extend to longer durations to assess how temporal scaling affects the representation of ecological patterns and processes, including attribution of the drivers of change. These methods will allow us to develop a protocol for comparative analysis by identifying optimal data characteristics for joint analysis, providing the rigorous testing needed to how methodological differences affect representation of trends, and thus establish when and how palaeo-data can be used to extend ecological timeseries. They will allow the project to examine whether step-changes in human-nature relations, such as the Great Acceleration in the 1950s, and processes like biotic homogenisation  are creating no-analogue states, imposing a filter on future assemblages and eroding resilience, particularly when considered alongside changes in the type, magnitude and frequency of disturbance pressures.