Photo: Boris Zimmermann

Quantitative estimates of past UV-B irradiance from fossil pollen

01 des. 2021 - 30 nov. 2025

Research Council of Norway,
KLIMAFORSK programme

About the QuestUV project

  • Large variations in ozone and surface UV-B radiation are also thought to have occurred in the past, with potentially major implications for climate, human societies and ecosystems. Although UV-B radiation is an important variable for understand process influencing life on Earth, at present it remains challenging to reconstruct changes in UV-B radiation at the Earth’s surface beyond the instrumental measurements since the 20th century.

    QUEST-UV will attempt to solve this challenge through the chemical analysis of fossil-pollen grains. Since the 2000s researchers have suggested that chemical sunscreens produced by plants, and which are also found in the walls of pollen grains and subsequently buried in lakes and bogs over thousands of years, may be used to reconstruct UV-B radiation received at the Earth’s surface. However, although the evidence base for a chemical response of UV-B absorbing compounds spans a variety of species under a range of experimental settings, a quantitative understanding of the dose-response relationship of UV-B absorbing compounds in pollen to UV-B radiation does not currently exist. This makes it difficult to generate precise reconstructions that can be be used in Earth system models and studies of the effects of UV-B radiation on the biosphere in the past.

    QUEST-UV research will use greenhouse and field experiments to quantitatively determine the response of Pinus sylvestris pollen to different wavelengths of light. Different extraction techniques will be used to isolate UV-B absorbing compounds in modern pollen grains and then this understanding will be used to provide the first quantitative reconstruction of UV-B radiation based on sediments representing up to the last 10,000 years.

    More about the project HERE.

NMBU is a partner in the QuestUV project, which is coordinated by the PaleoChem Research Group at the University of Bergen (UiB).

Read more about the project on UiBs website