Detecting anthropogenic disturbances in environmental archives: contamination, erosion and drainage

The current focus of this research project within the ROOTS Hazards subcluster is the detection of traces that human activities left in the environment, particularly in and around alpine regions. In most cases, such traces were not left or produced on purpose, but at least in prehistoric times, they were an ancillary effect without knowledge of the potential long-term impact. Among some traces are, for example, contamination by mining activities or degradation and erosion of vulnerable slopes by deforestation, overgrazing or agriculture, while drainage of peatlands was intentional. Chemical, sedimentary and palynological traces of such disturbances can be detected by various spectrometric methods (XRF core scanning, portable XRF, ICP-MS, etc.) and other techniques in environmental archives with continuous chronologies. In this case: peatlands, soils, and wood.
The establishment and application of clean standard protocols and quality control to assure reproducibility and comparability of geochemical results are often overlooked. Therefore, permanent reassessment and development of the methods are important aspects of my work. The motivation behind this project is to encourage and help other researchers within ROOTS to involve the use of efficient geochemical analyses in their studies of different materials and topics.

Project by Clemens von Scheffer



Fieldwork + Activities


Participating Institutions