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William Fletcher B.A. (Hons.) M.Phil. Ph.D

William Fletcher
Département de Géologie et Océanographie
Université Bordeaux 1
Avenue des Facultés

Phone +33 (0)6 07 64 75 24

Current Projects

William Fletcher was a 3rd year Ph.D. student researching the topic, Holocene Landscape History of Southern Portugal.  He is now a Post-doctoral worker at the Département de Géologie et Océanographie, UMR 5805 EPOC - OASU, at the Université Bordeaux 1, in France.

At present, details of the palaeoenvironmental history of southernmost Portugal (Algarve region) are little known and the chronology of landscape changes is poorly constrained. While the floodplains and estuaries of the Algarve’s rivers contain thick sequences of Holocene sediment, their potential to provide palaeoecological records relating to Holocene landscape development has not been fully explored. This Ph.D. project aims to address the lack of palaeoenvironmental data through palynological and sedimentological analysis of Holocene estuarine and alluvial deposits. A primary objective is to develop a record of Holocene vegetation history based on new palynological data. Pollen data for the south-western Iberian peninsula are particularly scarce and inferences regarding the vegetation history of the Algarve are generally drawn from distant and climatically distinct regions, notably the Serra da Estrela of northern Portugal and the Sierra Nevada of southeastern Spain. Several important questions regarding vegetation history will therefore be addressed for the first time with direct evidence from the Algarve. These include:

Pollen analysis is accompanied by plant macrofossil analysis and sedimentological analyses (particle-size analysis, charcoal content, magnetic susceptibility). These complementary analyses provide insights into aspects of landscape change such as fire, soil erosion, shifts in sediment sources and patterns of fluvial activity, and are critical in the interpretation of pollen records from fluvial settings. The analyses are supported by a framework of new radiocarbon determinations.

Sediment sequences from three sites are the focus of current investigation: 1) the Guadiana estuary (Spain/Portugal border)—a c.50 m Holocene sequence of fluvial and estuarine marsh sediments from the tidal segment of the Guadiana river approx. 10 km from the coast, at the mouth of the Beliche tributary (Beliche/Guadiana photo ); 2) the Boina estuary (western/central Algarve)—a c.20 m sequence of mid-Holocene fluvial sediments from the terminal segment of the Boina river, approx. 6 km inland; 3) the Carrapateira river (western/Atlantic Algarve)—alluvial floodplain deposits of late-Holocene age ( Carrapateira photo) . These sites span the east-west extent of the Algarve, and are located in river catchments which reflect the diverse geology and topography of the Algarve.

In the first year of the project, two field trips were made to Portugal, identifying field areas and collecting material for analysis in Cambridge. Samples from the Guadiana and Boina estuaries (cores CM5 and P5) were recovered by Professor T. Boski of the Centre for Marine and Environmental Research (CIMA) , Universidade do Algarve, Faro and are being studied in collaboration. The ongoing pollen analysis undertaken as part of this project will therefore complement the active research of CIMA into the post-Glacial history of sedimentation in the estuaries of the Algarve. Samples from the Carrapateira valley were collected in the field, and are the current focus of pollen, plant macrofossil and sediment analyses, and AMS radiocarbon dating.

This project was funded by a studentship award from the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), UK.

Research Interests

William's interests include the Quaternary history of Mediterranean environments, palynology, charcoal analysis, and prehistoric archaeology.

He was a student in the Quaternary science masters program (1999-2000), and read archaeology at Trinity College, Cambridge.  An M.Phil. dissertation "Late Quaternary woodland vegetation of the Vela Draga Canyon, Croatia " was based on the identification of macroscopic charcoal from four archaeological cave sites in the Istrian peninsula, Croatia.

Recent Research Articles

Fletcher, W.J. 2002. Late-Glacial and Holocene vegetation and prehistoric wood-use in the Istrian karst, Croatia. In S. Thiébault (ed.), Charcoal Analysis: Methodological Approaches, Palaeoecological Results and Wood Uses. Proceedings of the Second International Meeting of Anthracology, Paris, September 2000. BAR International Series 1063. Oxford: Archaeopress.

Will was also an editor of the termly newsletter CAMQUA