Subproject 3

Vegetation, climate, fire dynamics and human impacts in Java and southern Kalimantan inferred from pollen, spore and charcoal deposits in the Java Sea during the Late Holocene

The main objective of this subproject is to study environmental dynamics (vegetation, climate, fire) and human activities (slash and burn, deforestation, land use) inferred from deposits in the Java Sea from river catchments along the transect Java (very strong human impacts) – Kalimantan (low human impacts) during the late Holocene. A a result we want to understand natural and anthropogenic induced environmental change and the ecological response in a little disturbed environment (Kalimantan) and stronger disturbed environment (Java). Further in studying a set of surface samples we want to know how strong and how far signals from the islands of environmental changes are transported into the Java Sea. The results of this project, which can be seen as a case study, will help us understand the nature of past, modern and possible future environmental changes. Innovative multi-proxy studies (pollen, spores, charcoal and other proxies of the subprojects 5.1 and 5.2) will be applied on the same sediments samples of the Java Sea to reconstruct past environmental changes as an important contribution to the understanding of modern and future global changes in respect to the role of the human impact and ecological responses.

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Detailed analysis of past environmental, climate and land use history in the Indonesian region is essential to obtain better understanding of human-environment relationships and to prevent uncertainties in future development of the region. Indonesia is one of the world biodiversity hot-spots and at the same time it is one of the most heavily populated areas of the planet. Over historical time, the influence of the human activity in the region became more and more intense. To assess human contribution to the environment change, this project was established. 

Our work was focused on reconstruction of the past vegetation patterns, environment changes and human-environment interactions as they are reflected in marine sediments of Indonesian waters. Two types of independent proxies were taken for this study: pollen, that originate from land and give diverse information on the vegetation and land use dynamics, and organic walled dinocysts, that originate from marine environment and reflect changes of both quantitative (e.g. SST, SSS) and qualitative (e.g. trophic state in terms of main macroelements and dissolved water oxygen) water parameters. Moreover, microcharcoal was studied to get insight to the fires history in the region and to obtain additional support for interpretation of pollen and dinocyst data.

Two sites were chosen for comparison: the first, heavily populated Java with its long history of the human activity resulted in widespread agricultural landscapes, and the second, less densely population South Kalimantan less changed by human activity and still barring natural primary vegetation.

Marine palynology as a method requires close attention to the interpretation of data. Factors controlling pollen deposition are of particular importance, especially for the areas with strong influence of wind and marine currents like the Indonesian region where the whole climate system is driven mostly by the monsoon reversal. To get some ideas of the sediment transportation in the region, we studied and discussed in detail the differences in pollen assemblages collected under different monsoon conditions as well as during intermonsoon time. Abundance and taxa composition of modern pollen and spores collected by the sediment trap in Indian Ocean off SW Java became an object of our first manuscript. The results were used in the further interpretation of marine fossil pollen records.

History of the land use intensifications and vegetation change over the last ca 3500 yr revealed from dinoflagellate cysts and pollen assemblages in marine sediments are presented in the second and the third paper. The studies are based on the comparison of two marine cores from Java Sea off West Kalimantan (Jelai River) and North-East Java (Solo River). In the third manuscript, these records are compared to the more offshore sediment core taken from the mouth of Pembuang River. This study discussed the results of geochemical and dinocyst analysis in terms of palaeoecology and palaeoenvironment.

The next two studies gave us some additional understanding of the pollen flora diversity in the region and how adjacent vegetation is reflected by the diversity of pollen and spores. The fourth manuscript discussed relationships between modern pollen-rain and vegetation in the Segara Anakan Lagoon (South Java). The results facilitate the confident use of fossil pollen data to reconstruct vegetation composition and its dynamics at a regional scale. The fifth manuscript deals with the pollen diversity in marine sediment cores from the Indonesian region. It summarise our knowledge obtained during the work on the sediment cores from the Java Sea and from the Indian Ocean’ sediment trap study. In a form of pollen atlas, we provide detailed analysis of the pollen taxa list and supply it with the microphotographs at different focal levels.

The overall result of this work will contribute to the knowledge on the ecosystem dynamics and natural history of the Indonesian region and may help for future detailed palaeoecological and palaeclimatological investigation in the area.

Poliakova, A., Behling H., 2016. Fossil pollen and fern spores recorded in the late Holocene marine sediments from the Java Sea. Quaternary International 392: 251-314.

Poliakova, A., Rixen, T., Jennerjahn, T., Behling, H., 2014. Eleven month High Resolution Pollen and Spore Sedimentation Record off SW Java in the Indian Ocean. Marine Micropaleontology 111: 90-99.

Poliakova, A., Zonneveld, K.A.F., Herbeck, L., Jennerjahn, T., Permana, H., Behling, H., accepted. High resolution multi-proxy reconstruction of environmental changes in coastal waters of the Java Sea, Indonesia, during the late Holocene. Palynology. DOI:

Anastasia Poliakova 1 , Karin Zonneveld 2,3 , Hermann Behling 1

(1) Georg-August-University Goettingen, Albrecht-von-Haller-Institute for Plant Sciences, Department of Palynology and Climate Dynamics, Untere Karspüle 2, 37073 Göttingen, Germany;
e-mail:, (2) MARUM, University of Bremen, Leobenerstraße, D-28359 Bremen, Germany, (3) Fachbereich Geowissenschaften, University of
Bremen, Postfach 330440, D-28334 Bremen, Germany icons - pdficon_small.gif final poster_GTÖ_Freising

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  • Prof. Dr. Hermann Behling, Albrecht von Haller Institute for Plant Sciences, Department of Palynology and Climate Dynamics, University of Göttingen
  • Anastasia Poliakova, Albrecht von Haller Institute for Plant Sciences, Department of Palynology and Climate Dynamics, University of Göttingen
  • Dr. Haryadi Permana, Earth Dynamics and Geological Disaster Division Research Center for Geotechnology (LIPI), Bandung