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Working Groups Historical Vegetation Ecology

Steering Committee (2019-2022)

Guillaume DECOCQ (Chair), Jules Verne University of Picardie, Amiens (France)
Radim HÉDL (Deputy chair), Czech Academy of Sciences, Brno (Czech Republic)
Peter POSCHOLD, University of Regensburg (Germany)
Péter SZABÓ, Czech Academy of Sciences, Brno (Czech Republic)
Kris VERHEYEN, Leuven University (Belgium)


About the Working Group

The Historical Vegetation Ecology working group of the IAVS has been created in July 2018. It constitutes an interdisciplinary network of scientists devoted to the study of plant communities in the broad framework of the past development. Within this framework, past and contemporary plant communities are viewed as spatiotemporal integrators of the interactions between vegetation and human activities. Advances in archaeosciences and the emergence of new technologies are paving the road for new developments in vegetation science. The Historical Vegetation Ecology group aims at fostering these developments by providing an interdisciplinary place to all scientists interested in historical aspects of vegetation. No time scale and no spatial scale are excluded. “Understanding the present as an interpretative model of the past and interpreting the past in the present context” could be the motto of the group.
The main objectives of the Historical Vegetation Ecology group are:
•   promoting cross-disciplinary studies, at the frontier between vegetation science and human sciences, especially history and archaeology
•   stimulating and facilitating international research collaborations
•   compiling and distributing information about historical ecology in general
•   organizing special sessions at the IAVS annual symposium and dedicated meetings
On 1st January 2019, the working group comprised 166 members (134 IAVS and 32 non-IAVS members).


What is historical vegetation ecology?

Historical vegetation ecology can be viewed as the study of plant communities over longer time periods, with a focus on human-environment interactions. This includes the study of causes and consequences of human-induced vegetation patterns. Scientists from all disciplines who are interested in long-term vegetation dynamics using various methods and tools, as well as those interested in the relationships between nature and human culture over time are very welcome. Although historical vegetation ecology often focuses on the recent past (last few decades to centuries), no time scale is excluded and palaeoecological approaches are more than welcome. Historical vegetation ecology shall cross traditional disciplinary boundaries and use data provided by various disciplines: traditional written and iconographic sources, land and vegetation surveys, oral histories, pollen and macro-remain records, tree ring analyses, soil archives, ancient DNA, archaeological surveys, etc.
Some key references
Ballée W. (2006) The research program of historical ecology. Annual Reviews in Anthropology 35: 75-98.
Beller E. et al. (2017) Toward principles of historical ecology. American Journal of Botany 104: 645-648.
Egan D. & Howell E.A. (2001) The historical ecology handbook: a restorationist’s guide to reference ecosystems. Island Press, Washington D.C.
Isendahl C. (2016) Historical ecology coming of age. Reviews in Anthropology 45: 127-147.
Swetnam T.W. et al. (1999) Applied historical ecology: using the past to manage for the future. Ecological Applications 9: 1189-1206.
Szabó P. (2015) Historical ecology: past, present and future. Biological Reviews 90: 997-1014.

How to join

Membership in the Historical Vegetation Ecology working group is open to anyone. Membership in the IAVS is optional but encouraged. To join the Historical Vegetation Ecology WG, you have two options:
a. If you already are an IAVS member or just joining the IAVS, just specify you are willing to be a member of the working group when joining or renewing your membership. All IAVS members will be able to confirm their willingness to participate to the WG at the time of their IAVS membership annual renewal.
b. If you only wish to become the WG member, not an IAVS member at the same time, please send an e-mail to the WG Membership Administrator or the Chair.

Bylaws (to download) 


Information letters

Information letter n°1 (January 2019)

Projects and activities

The primary goal of the working group is to foster networking through meetings, collaborative meta-analyses, syntheses and reviews, shared databases, or joint projects promoted through the cooperation in the working group.



An important part of the working group activities are regular meetings. They usually take place at the IAVS Symposia, but we organize scientific meetings as parts of other international conferences (ESEH, IALE) or as independent events.

Next meeting: The next business meeting will be held in conjunction with the 63rd IAVS annual symposium in Vladivostok (Russia) from 20 to 24th July 2020 . 

We also invite you to join the International conference « Historical ecology for the future » which will be organized by our colleague Vincent Robin on 25 to 28th May 2020 in Metz (France); see for details

2019 Working Group Report


Next Meeting

2021 IAVS Annual Symposium: Madrid, Spain, 27 June - 2 July 2021
We are sorry to announce that the Vladivostok symposium has been cancelled. Please, read details at the symposium website. We hope to see many of you next year in Spain!


Latest Issues

Journal of Vegetation Science

Applied Vegetation Science

IAVS Member Benefits