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Palynologie-exemple

Pollen under microscope

Palynology is the science that studies contemporary and fossil palynomorphs, including pollen, spores, dinoflagellate cysts, acritarchs, chitinozoans and scolecodonts, together with particulate organic matter (POM) and kerogen found in sedimentary rocks and sediments.

The term palynology was introduced by Hyde and Williams in 1944, following correspondence with the Swedish geologist Antevs, in the pages of the Pollen Analysis Circular (one of the first journals devoted to pollen analysis, and produced by Paul Sears in North America). Hyde and Williams chose palynology on the basis of the Greek words paluno meaning 'to sprinkle' and pale meaning 'dust' (and thus similar to the Latin word pollen).

Palynology is an interdisciplinary science and is a branch of earth science (geology or geological science) and biological science (biology), particularly plant science (botany). Stratigraphical palynology is a branch of micropalaeontology and paleobotany which studies fossil palynomorphs from the Precambrian to the Holocene.

Methods of study

Palynomorphs are broadly defined as organic-walled microfossils between 5 and 500 micrometres in size. They are extracted from rocks and sediments both physically, by wet sieving, often after ultrasonic treatment, and chemically, by using chemical digestion to remove the non-organic fraction. For example, palynomorphs may be extracted using hydrochloric acid (HCl) to digest carbonate minerals, and hydrofluoric acid (HF) to digest silicate minerals in suitable fume cupboards in specialist laboratories.

Samples are then mounted on microscope slides and examined using light microscopy or scanning electron microscopy. Once the pollen grains have been identified they can be plotted on a pollen diagram which is then used for interpretation. Pollen diagrams are useful in giving evidence of past human activity (anthropogenic impact), vegetation history and climatic history.

Palynology uses many techniques from other related fields such as geology, botany, paleontology, archaeology, pedology, and geography.

Applications

Palynology is used for a diverse range of applications, related to many scientific disciplines:

Because the distribution of acritarchs, chitinozoans, dinoflagellate cysts, pollen and spores provides evidence of stratigraphical correlation through biostratigraphy and palaeoenvironmental reconstruction, one common and lucrative application of palynology is in oil and gas exploration.

Palynology also allows scientists to infer the climatic conditions from the vegetation present in an area thousands or millions of years ago. This is a fundamental part of research into climate change.

References

  • Moore, P.D., et al. (1991), Pollen Analysis (Second Edition). Blackwell Scientific Publications. ISBN 0-632-02176-4
  • Traverse, A. (1988), Paleopalynology. Unwin Hyman ISBN 0-04-561001-0

External links

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