What the coprophilous fungal spores can tell us about the history of reindeer herding in northern Sweden?

M S Kuoppamaa, Kjell-Åke Aronsson

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperScientific


Reindeer (Rangifer tarandus) is the single most dominant large herbivore affecting the vegetation of the northern Fennoscandia. It has been observed throughout the Arctic, and especially in Fennoscandia and northern Russia that combined human-animal agency, e.g. concentrated grazing and trampling by semi-domesticated reindeer herds, has changed the vegetation by creating graminoid-dominated green patches, which may persist for centuries.
Suollagavallda site is located in the Swedish Scandes, just outside the Unesco World Heritage Area Laponia. The study area is in a mountain valley with numerous ancient dwelling sites indicated by several Stallo foundations and stone hearths. The site was chosen for a high-resolution pollen and coprophilous fungal spore analysis because the archaeology does not reveal very much about the history of reindeer herding practices on the site. Our hypothesis was, that Sámi have practiced reindeer milking in the area during the summer months, and the animals have been kept on site for several weeks at the time, year after year repeatedly over several generations, which has had its effect on the vegetation structure, cover, and composition.
Due to the nutrient input through faeces deposition, the abandoned milking sites can usually be spotted from the surrounding areas because of their rich herb flora. Recent studies from the Netherlands also show that there is a significant relationship between the coprophilous fungal spore abundance and local biomass densities of herbivores that can be used in the calibration of fossil records. The aim of this study is to use the coprophilous fungal spores to detect the local presence of reindeer and the timing and duration of the reindeer milking in the area.
The results from Suollagavallda profile show up to 35 % of coprophilous fungal spore Sporormiella along with a decline in the percentages of Betula and Salix pollen, and an increase in Juniperus and Rumex which are good palynological indicators of grazing in the area. The pattern is very similar to some earlier observations from other reindeer herding sites in Sweden. The high percentage of coprophilous fungal spores in the so far analyzed samples suggests that the method can be used to date the timing and duration of reindeer milking in the Suollagavallda valley.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2017
EventThe VII Workshop on Non-Pollen Palynomorphs - University of Liverpool, Liverpool, United Kingdom
Duration: 12 Jun 2017 → …


WorkshopThe VII Workshop on Non-Pollen Palynomorphs
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Period12.06.2017 → …


  • palaeoecology
  • pollen
  • coprophilous fungal spores

Field of science

  • Geosciences


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