Changes in synantropic vegetation of the Czech Republic in Prehistoric times and Early Middle Ages (5600 BC – AD 1200)

Petr Kočár, Adéla Pokorná, Jiří Sádlo

It has repeatedly been demonstrated that the diversity of weed flora has gradually increased since the Neolithic in Central Europe. Increasing species diversity is a result of both the immigration of alien plants and spread of apophytes (native plants that have expanded spontaneously to anthropogenic habitats). We focus on the period when immigration of archaeophytes (i.e. species that migrated to Central Europe from the Neolithic, ca. 5600 BC, to the end of the Middle Ages, ca. AD 1500) took place. The species composition observed in archaeobotanical material implies a gradual increase in number of co-existing habitats over the period under investigation. Three waves of increased rates of immigration were distinguished in our data:
(i) the Neolithic, (ii) the Bronze Age, and (iii) the Early Middle Ages. Not only did the rate of immigration differ between phases, also the species of diverse residence time varied in their ecological demands. The Neolithic phase was characterised by a prevalence of generalist species, which are currently abundant in both ruderal and segetal vegetations. Since the Eneolithic, specialised weeds of cereal fields have emerged. In the ruderal flora, successive development was directed from a predominance of species indicative of less fertile soils to species of nutrient-rich substrata. Similarly, grassland species showed changes from short lawns of disturbed and/or trampled sites to meadows and pastures.

 The article is a short version of the study “Ancient and Early Medieval man-made habitats in the Czech Republic: colonization history and vegetation changes” published in Preslia journal (Pokorná et al 2018).