New Publication: Reconstructing palaeoclimatic variables from fossil pollen using boosted regression trees: comparison and synthesis with other quantitative reconstruction methods

J. Sakari Salonen, Miska Luoto, Teija Alenius, Maija Heikkilä, Heikki Seppä, Richard J. Telford, H. John B. Birks, Reconstructing palaeoclimatic variables from fossil pollen using boosted regression trees: comparison and synthesis with other quantitative reconstruction methods, Quaternary Science Reviews, Volume 88, 15 March 2014, Pages 69-81, ISSN 0277-3791, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.quascirev.2014.01.011.

Abstract

We test and analyse a new calibration method, boosted regression trees (BRTs) in palaeoclimatic reconstructions based on fossil pollen assemblages. We apply BRTs to multiple Holocene and Lateglacial pollen sequences from northern Europe, and compare their performance with two commonly-used calibration methods: weighted averaging regression (WA) and the modern-analogue technique (MAT). Using these calibration methods and fossil pollen data, we present synthetic reconstructions of Holocene summer temperature, winter temperature, and water balance changes in northern Europe. Highly consistent trends are found for summer temperature, with a distinct Holocene thermal maximum at ca 8000–4000 cal. a BP, with a mean Tjja anomaly of ca +0.7 °C at 6 ka compared to 0.5 ka. We were unable to reconstruct reliably winter temperature or water balance, due to the confounding effects of summer temperature and the great between-reconstruction variability. We find BRTs to be a promising tool for quantitative reconstructions from palaeoenvironmental proxy data. BRTs show good performance in cross-validations compared with WA and MAT, can model a variety of taxon response types, find relevant predictors and incorporate interactions between predictors, and show some robustness with non-analogue fossil assemblages.