Centenary Palaeoecology Symposium (cancelled)

100 Years Palaeoecology

Walter Rytz’s habilitation thesis in 1911 on the “Floristic History of the Bernese hills between the Alps and the Jura mountains” studied the postglacial relationship between climate and vegetation changes. When Walter Rytz became professor in 1920, palaeoecology was introduced at University of Bern. 2020 marks the centenary of the palaeoecology section. The anniversary will be celebrated with a two-day international symposium in 2021.

The symposium will take place at University of Bern, Switzerland, between June 7th and 8th 2021 and will be followed on June 9th by a choice of optional one-day excursions to the Swiss Plateau and the Alps.


The symposium aims at providing an overview on the state-of-the-art in palaeoecology, with an outlook on the direction the field may take in the coming years. Renowned speakers will present their research (see program). Their sessions are grouped by topics relevant for palaeoecology. Moreover, two poster sessions will give participants the opportunity to present their own research.

In its sessions the symposium will focus on the following topics:

1. Session: Scales & Proxies

Key words: Spatial and temporal scales, indicators, multi-proxy, environmental archives, disturbance and biotic response


Records of past environmental changes have been assembled from a variety of different palaeoenvironmental proxies from different archives worldwide. They all show that climate and vegetation on Earth have changed continuously on decadal and longer time-scales, resulting in today’s landscapes. In this session the role of major ecological stressors such as climate, disturbances, or human impact are discussed with regard to vegetation and ecosystem changes.

2. Session: Quantification, Modelling and Theory of Palaeoecology           

Keywords: data-model comparison, numerical techniques, dynamic vegetation models, resilience, hypothesis testing, big data

During the past century palaeoecology has moved from a rather descriptive science to a discipline focusing on testing fundamental ecological hypotheses and quantifying changes over time. Considering different spatio-temporal scales of environmental change is essential to understand the underlying mechanisms of such changes and to gain process-based assessments of past, present, and future ecosystem dynamics.

Eiger, Monch, Jungfrau  - Schynigge Platte

In this session the theoretical framework behind palaeoecological studies is outlined and examples in which palaeoecology has been combined with numerical models to address current ecological questions are presented.

3. Session: Palaeoecology’s Human and Societal Dimension

Keywords: environmental archaeology, human impact, farming, pollution, anthropogenic indicators

Palaeoecology has long been devoted to ascertain the relationships between human societies and their environment, addressing a broad array of questions such as the time-transgressive nature of Neolithic farming and its regional impact as well as more recent impacts like acidification and pollution of freshwater ecosystems.

Human and societal

In this session developments in the study of the interactions between humans and the environment alongside the future developments in the field will be discussed.

4. Session: Implications of Palaeoecology for Biodiversity and Conservation

Keywords: biodiversity, nature conservation

Palaeoecology can provide vital information about biodiversity and biosphere variability that may help overcoming static concepts and unsustainable conservation goals under global change conditions. Despite this high potential of palaeoecology, finding a common language and reciprocal understanding with neo-ecology and conservation biology is often a challenge. In this session examples and ways that may permit transferring palaeoecological insights and knowledge to improve biodiversity and conservation strategies in a rapidly changing world will be discussed.

Registration and Abstract Submission

The registration fee of CHF 300 for Regular Participants or CHF 200 for MSc and PhD students includes the conference registration, coffee breaks, lunches (7 - 8 June 2021) and the conference reception (Monday 7 June 2021, see program).

Only posters (portrait not landscape; maximum size: A0) that refer to one of the symposium’s topics will be accepted.
Due to space limitations we have to limit the number of participants to 180 and the number of posters to 150. Further reduction of this number may occur to comply with the COVID-19-related regulations in force.

Excursions are cancelled for the moment.

PhD and MSc students will need to show proof of their status at the registration desk at the beginning of the conference.


Deadline for poster abstract submission: 30 April 2021 (extended deadline)
Notification of poster abstract acceptance: 7 May 2021
Opening of registration (payment): will be announced at the beginning of May
Deadline for registration: will be announced in at the beginning of May