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Pollen and spores of terrestrial plants

January 1, 2015

Pollen and spores are valuable tools in reconstructing past sea level and climate because of their ubiquity, abundance, and durability as well as their reciprocity with source vegetation to environmental change (Cronin, 1999; Traverse, 2007; Willard and Bernhardt, 2011). Pollan is found in many sedimentary environments, from freshwater to saltwater, terrestrial to marine. It can be abundant in a minimal amount of sample material, for example half a gram, as concentrations can be as high as four million grains per gram (Traverse, 2007). The abundance of pollen in a sample lends it to robust statistical analysis for the quantitative reconstruction of environments. The outer cell wall is resistant to decay in sediments and allows palynomorphs (pollen and spores) to record changes in plant communities and sea level over millions of years. These characteristics make pollen and spores a powerful tool to use in sea-level research.

This chapter describes the biology of pollen and spores and how they are transported and preserved in sediments. We present a methodology for isolating pollen from sediments and a general language and framework to identify pollen as well as light micrographs of a selection of common pollen grains, We then discuss their utility in sea-level research.