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Biomarker proxies for reconstructing Quaternary climate and environmental change

McClymont, Erin L.; Mackay, Helen; Stevenson, Mark A.; Damm-Johnsen, Thale; Honan, Eleanor Maedhbh; Penny, Claire E.; Cole, Yasmin A.


Claire Penny
PGR Student Doctor of Philosophy

Yas Cole
Combined Role


To reconstruct past environmental changes, a range of indirect or proxy approaches can be applied to Quaternary archives. Here, we review the complementary and novel insights which have been provided by the analysis of chemical fossils (biomarkers). Biomarkers have a biological source that can be highly specific (e.g., produced by a small group of organisms) or more general. We show that biomarkers are able to quantify key climate variables (particularly water and air temperature) and can provide qualitative evidence for changes in hydrology, vegetation, human-environment interactions and biogeochemical cycling. In many settings, biomarker proxies provide the opportunity to simultaneously reconstruct multiple climate or environmental variables, alongside complementary and long-established approaches to palaeo-environmental reconstruction. Multi-proxy studies have provided rich sets of data to explore both the drivers and impacts of palaeo-environmental change. As new biomarker proxies continue to be developed and refined, there is further potential to answer emerging questions for Quaternary science and environmental change.


McClymont, E. L., Mackay, H., Stevenson, M. A., Damm-Johnsen, T., Honan, E. M., Penny, C. E., & Cole, Y. A. (2023). Biomarker proxies for reconstructing Quaternary climate and environmental change. Journal of Quaternary Science, 38(7), 991-1024.

Journal Article Type Review
Acceptance Date Jul 4, 2023
Online Publication Date Aug 23, 2023
Publication Date 2023-10
Deposit Date Aug 2, 2023
Publicly Available Date Aug 24, 2024
Journal Journal of Quaternary Science
Print ISSN 0267-8179
Electronic ISSN 1099-1417
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 38
Issue 7
Pages 991-1024
Public URL
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Published Journal Article (Advance Online Version) (2 Mb)


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Copyright Statement
© 2023 The Authors Journal of Quaternary Science Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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