Reconstruction of past environmental change based on biotic proxies in lake sediments

The distribution of a range of aquatic and terrestrial indicator groups is strongly related to the environments they live in. Therefore their fossil remains can be used to reconstruct past environmental change. We work on developing quantitative reconstructions of past environmental and ecosystem change, particularly focussingfocusing on fossil assemblages of invertebrates such as Chironomidae (non-biting midges). A particular aim of this work has been on developingto develop quantitative reconstructions of past summer temperature change in Europe and using to use these records to drive and evaluate landscape (e.g. vegetation) and climate models.

Laguna de la Roya
Fieldwork at Laguna de la Roya, Spain, to obtain a lateglacial sediment sequence

A chironomid-based reconstruction of past July air temperature from Lac Lautrey, France (Heiri and Millet, 2005), compared with a climate reconstruction based on oxygen isotopes in ostracod remains from Southern Germany (von Grafenstein et al., 1999).

Recent publications

  • Samartin, Stéphanie; Heiri, Oliver; Boltshauser-Kaltenrieder, Petra; Kühl, Norbert; Tinner, Willy
    Reconstruction of full glacial environments and summer temperatures from Lago della Costa, a refugial site in Northern Italy
    Quaternary Science Reviews, 143: 107–119 JUL 2016

  • Renssen, H; Mairesse, A; Goosse, H; Mathiot, P; Heiri, O; Roche, DM; Nisancioglu, KH; Valdes, PJ
    Multiple causes of the Younger Dryas cold period
    Nature Geoscience 8: 946–949 OCT 2015

  • Heiri, O; Ilyashuk, B; Millet, L; Samartin, S; Lotter, AF
    Stacking of discontinuous regional palaeoclimate records: Chironomid-based summer temperatures from the Alpine region
    The Holocene 25 (1): 137-149 JAN 2015

  • Heiri, O; Brooks, SJ; Renssen, H; Bedford, A; Hazekamp, M; Ilyashuk, B; Jeffers, ES; Lang, B; Kirilova, E; Kuiper, S; Millet, L; Samartin, S; Toth, M; Verbruggen, F; Watson, JE; van, Asch, N; Lammertsma, E; Amon, L; Birks, HH; Birks, HJ; Mortensen, MF; Hoek, WZ; Magyari, E; Muñoz, Sobrino, C; Seppä, H; Tinner, W; Tonkov, S; Veski, S; Lotter, AF
    Validation of climate model-inferred regional temperature change for late-glacial Europe
    Nature Communications: 4914 SEP 2014

  • Tinner, W; Colombaroli, D; Heiri, O; Henne, P; Steinacher, M; Untenecker, J; Vescovi, E; Allen, J; Carraro, G; Conedera, M; Joos, F; Lotter, AF; Luterbacher, J; Samartin, S; Valsecchi, V
    The past ecology of Abies alba provides new perspectives on future responses of silver fir forests to global warming
    Ecological Monographs 83 (4): 419–439 NOV 2013

Recent presentations

  • Heiri O
    Chironomids as a proxy for temperature changes in the Alps
    40th International Moor Excursion, 8.9.2016, Lauenensee, Switzerland
  • Heiri O
    Climate model–proxy-intercomparisons: Lessons learned from the EUCLIM project
    AC2ME Workshop, The Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ), 22-26.6.2015, Texel, The Netherlands
  • Heiri, O
    Stacking of discontinuous regional palaeoclimate records: Chironomid based summer temperatures from the Alpine region
    At the frontiers of palaeoecology - seminar in honour of John Birks and his academic life, University of Bergen. 19-20.3.2015, Bergen, Norway
  • Heiri O
    Lateglacial summer temperature gradients across Europe
    Institute of Geography, University of Bern, 17.3.2015, Bern, Switzerland



Oliver Heiri, Elisa Vescovi, Stéphanie Samartin, Willy Tinner


Andy Lotter, Emi Kirilova (Utrecht University), Hans Renssen, Didier Roche (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam), Steve Brooks (Natural History Museum London), John Birks, Hilary Birks (University of Bergen), Laurent Millet, Odile Peyron (Université de Franche Comte), Enikö Magyiari (Natural History Museum Budapest), Spasimir Tonkov (Sofia University), Castor Muñoz Sobrino (University of Vigo), Heikki Seppä (University of Helsinki), Siim Veski (Talinn University of Technology), Morten Fischer Mortensen (The National Museum of Denmark) and other colleagues