A historical perspective on climate effects in the Netherlands

Utrecht University researchers Dr Wim Hoek and Professor Esther Jansma at the estate ‘Den Treek-Henschoten’ to explain the discovery of fossil forest remains uncovered during digging works at the estate.

“We discovered the remains of 160 pines and dwarf birch shrubs that were 13,000 years old”. explained Dr Wim Hoek. “At the time, the trees had to cope with rapidly changing conditions as NW Europe was in transition between the warm Allerødperiod (approx. 13,100 to 12,900 years ago) and the intense cold Dryas period (approx. 12,900 to 11,700 years ago).

Old pine tree
One of the 13.000 years old pine trees found at Den Treek

Scientists suspect the sudden cold Younger Dryas period was caused by a rapid increase of melting water of the North American ice cap, which in turn caused the warm Gulf Stream to stop. Climate change researchers have predicted that this scenario might happen again in the future.

Dr Wim Hoek continued: “The exceptional find helps us understand the environmental impact of a rapid and long cold period and helps predict what would happen should this scenario repeat itself.”

This study was done in collaboration with the Dutch Cultural Heritage Agency, TNO Geological Survey of the Netherlands, and the universities of Amsterdam, Groningen and Wageningen and VU Amsterdam

This discovery was featured in the Dutch radio programme Vroege Vogels