CALICE Calibrating Plant Biodiversity in Glacier Ice

Research | Pollen analysis on the ice core

Vegetation produces a high quantity of pollen which is released in the air as part of the plant reproductive cycle. A fraction of this pollen is deposited on the Earth’s surface, including glaciers.

Pollen data provide taxonomical information about the plants that produced them and allow to reconstruct past vegetation composition as well as former plant diversity.

Furthermore, plant species release their pollen every year in a specific season (e.g. birch during the Spring, sweet chestnut during the Summer) and therefore pollen grains contained in the glacier layers give an estimation of the season during which snow deposition occurred.  This information represents an important contribution to the ice core chronology.

Pollen will be identified according to:

  • morphological features of pollen grains (classical palynology);
  • DNA barcodes, which will also be used to analyze plant remains in the ice core (next generation sequencing).