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Human activity destroys species that the Ice Age could not

* 20 September 2002 *

Human activity destroys species that the Ice Age could not

Forest clearance and animal overgrazing in the last 5,000 years have destroyed important tree species that had survived even the Ice Age.

Dr Mick Frogley, Lecturer in Physical Geography at the University of Sussex, is one of a British research team exploring a site near Lake Ioannina in the Pindus Mountains of northwestern Greece.

"Given the importance of the area for the long-term survival of European plants and animals, and also potentially for the emergence of new ones, such destruction of the local tree populations is alarming," says Dr Frogley.

During the Ice Age, temperate plant and animal species took refuge in sheltered areas - especially in southern Europe - where the climatic conditions were less extreme. When the ice sheets retreated, these species could re-colonise the areas further north.

"We analysed the fossil pollen from the sediments at the bottom of the lake," says Dr Frogley. "We can clearly see that tree species were able to survive long glacial periods in this area and even to evolve."

'Buffered tree population changes in a quaternary refugium: Evolutionary Implications' by Tzedakis, Lawson, Frogley, Hewitt and Preece is presented in the latest edition of the journal Science (20 Sep).

* Notes for editors *

Mick Frogley can be contacted on 01273 873237, email

Press Office contacts: Peter Simmons or Alison Field, University of Sussex, Tel. 01273 678888, Fax 01273 877456, email or

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