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Front. Ecol. Evol., 18 July 2023
Sec. Paleoecology
Volume 11 - 2023 |

Editorial: Methods in paleoecology: 2021

  • 1Research Institute on Terrestrial Ecosystems, National Research Council (CNR), Montelibretti, Italy
  • 2Department of Geography, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI, United States
  • 3St. Croix Watershed Research Station, Science Museum of Minnesota, Saint Paul, MN, United States
  • 4Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY, United States
  • 5Department of Geography, University of Nevada, Reno, NV, United States

Editorial on the Research Topic
Methods in paleoecology: 2021

Paleoecology is a broad discipline that involves several fields with the aim of reconstructing past environments to understand the interaction between living organisms and their surroundings throughout time. Due to the impossibility of direct observations of communities, species interactions, and abiotic elements in the past, as well as their variance due to natural and human-induced effects, ecosystems must be reconstructed from evidence left in the geological record (Croft et al., 2018). These records are preserved in various natural archives in both marine and terrestrial settings. The complexity of nature, as well as the composition and availability of proxies in natural archives requires a multidisciplinary approach that has continuously improved since the discipline of paleoecology was founded. Hence, the application of new techniques and methods is fundamental in driving the evolution of this discipline.

This Research Topic compiles seven articles, providing an overview of new methodologies recently applied to the field of paleoecology.

Pound et al. present a paleoclimatic reconstruction during the Miocene in the UK based on fungal assemblage. In this paper 110 fungal fossil remains were recorded, including 38 newly described morphotypes, providing a new approach using fungal morphotypes as paleoclimate proxies.

Schachat proposes the application of two analytical methods (propensity score matching and specification curve analysis) in paleobotany to better understand long-term trends in fossil records.

Perrotti et al. present an analysis of the uncertainties about palynomorphs concentration value estimates coprophilous fungal spores in paleoecological studies.

Rasbold et al. provide systematic guidelines for extraction, preparation, and identification of sponge spicules from the Neotropics, contributing to the implementation of sponges in the reconstruction of ancient freshwater ecosystems.

Noble et al. characterize the algal community composition and structure in Lake Tahoe, providing a better understanding of nearshore environments in oligotrophic subalpine lakes.

Wang et al. investigate the influence of traditional pollen extraction treatments on ultraviolet absorbing compounds (UACs) in sub-fossil pollen and spores observed with FTIR micro-spectrometry. This study provides an overview of the effects of commonly used pollen extraction methods on new techniques applied to modern and fossil palynomorphs for paleoenvironmental reconstructions.

Blong et al. present a sequential biomolecular, macrofossil, and microfossil extraction method, piloted on an assemblage of coprolites from the western USA, contributing to the understanding of the taxonomy and the behavior of organisms in paleoecological environments.

The articles collected in this Research Topic provide insight into some of the most recent advances in methods being applied in paleoecology, underlining the heterogeneity of fields that allow the application of new tools, methods, and therefore a deeper understanding of paleoenvironments and their interactions with organisms. Proving novel techniques and applying methodology from other disciplines accelerates the field’s ability to better reconstruct ecological change on the time scales similar to which evolution occurs. Ranging from microscopy, statistical analysis, geochemistry, and micro-spectrometry on multiproxy biomarkers, the authors enlighten the complexity and challenges of paleoecological studies and how new techniques and methods can be applied in this discipline.

Author contributions

IT wrote the initial daft of the manuscript and the all authors contributed to the article editing and approved the submitted version.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.

Publisher’s note

All claims expressed in this article are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of their affiliated organizations, or those of the publisher, the editors and the reviewers. Any product that may be evaluated in this article, or claim that may be made by its manufacturer, is not guaranteed or endorsed by the publisher.


Croft D. A., Su D. F., Simpson S. W. (2018) "Introduction to paleoecological reconstruction." In: Methods in paleoecology. Vertebrate paleobiology and paleoanthropology, Eds. Croft D., Su D., Simpson S. (Springer, Cham).

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Keywords: paleoecology, new methods, palynomorphs, fungal spores, sponge spicules, microscopy, diatoms, paleobotany

Citation: Tunno I, Perrotti A, Burge DRL, McGlue MM and Csank A (2023) Editorial: Methods in paleoecology: 2021. Front. Ecol. Evol. 11:1250973. doi: 10.3389/fevo.2023.1250973

Received: 30 June 2023; Accepted: 07 July 2023;
Published: 18 July 2023.

Edited and Reviewed by:

Laura Parducci, Sapienza University of Rome, Italy

Copyright © 2023 Tunno, Perrotti, Burge, McGlue and Csank. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

*Correspondence: Irene Tunno,