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BIOME 6000 Version 4.2

Dataset available for download

Project Organisation
Regional Biomisation
Plant Functional Types
BIOME 6000 Bibliography
BIOME 6000 1st special issue
BIOME 6000 2nd special issue
What's new?
Related projects

BIOME 6000

The Global Palaeovegetation Mapping (BIOME 6000) Project is a community-wide collaboration inaugurated in 1994 under the joint auspices of four of the elements of the International Geosphere-Biosphere Program: IGBP-GAIM, IGBP-DIS, IGBP-GCTE and IGBP-PAGES.

The aims of BIOME 6000 are to:

  • create fully-documented pollen and plant macrofossil data sets for 6000 and 18,000 years before present (yr B.P.)
  • construct global maps of biomes for these time periods, using a standard objective biomisation technique based on plant functional types (PFTs).

The BIOME 6000 project was designed to provide data sets that could be used for evaluation of model experiments within:


Project Organisation

Colin Prentice, University of Bristol (overall coordinator)
Tom Webb III, Brown University (Data Management)
Sandy Harrison, University of Bristol (International Liaison + Workshops)

Regional Biomisation


Prentice et al., Journal of Biogeography 25: 997-1005, 1996; Elenga et al., Journal of Biogeography 27: 621-634, 2000.


Jolly et al., Journal of Biogeography 25: 1007-1027, 1998; Elenga et al., Journal of Biogeography 27: 621-634, 2000.

South-East Asia and the PACific (SEAPAC):

Pickett et al., Journal of Biogeography 31:1-65, 2004

Latin America:

in progress

Eastern + Boreal North America:

Williams et al., Quaternary Science Reviews 17: 607-628, 1998; Williams et al., Journal of Biogeography 27: 585-607, 2000.

Western North America:

Thompson R.S., and Anderson K.H., Journal of Biogeography 27: 555-584, 2000.

Alaska + W.Beringia:

Edwards et al., Journal of Biogeography 27: 521-554, 2000.

Former Soviet Union + Mongolia:

Tarasov et al., Journal of Biogeography 25: 1029-1053, 1998; Tarasov et al., Journal of Biogeography 27: 609-620, 2000.


Yu et al., Journal of Biogeography 25: 1055-1069, 1998; Yu et al., Journal of Biogeography 27:635-664, 2000. Harrison et al.


Takahara et al., Journal of Biogeography 27: 665-683, 2000.

Indian subcontinent:

in progress



Biomes are defined in terms of their characteristic PFTs. Pollen spectra are translated into biomes by means of an objective algorithm based on fuzzy logic. The method assumes that each pollen spectrum has a degree of affinity (which can be expressed numerically) with each biome. Biome assignment is based on ranking these "affinity scores" and assigning the pollen spectrum to the biome for which it has the highest affinity score.

The steps in the biomization method are:

    1. each pollen taxon is assigned to one or more PFTs on the basis of the known biology of the species it represents. PFT assignments are checked by comparing the bioclimatic distribution of each taxon in turn with an expected bioclimatic distribution, based on its assignment to one or more PFTs. The product of this step is a PFT vs taxon matrix.
    2. Biomes are defined in terms of their characteristic PFTs, yielding a biome vs PFT matrix.
    3. The two matrices are manipulated to yield a taxon vs biome matrix, indicating which pollen taxa may occur in which biome.
    4. Affinity scores for any given pollen spectrum and biome are calculated as the sum of pollen values for taxa that may occur in that biome. Prior to this calculation, the pollen values are transformed to increase the signal-to-noise ratio. The standard procedure uses a square-root transformation, after subtraction of a uniform threshold pollen percentage of 0.5%
    5. The pollen spectrum is assigned to the biome with which it has the highest affinity, subject to a tie-breaking rule by which priority is given to any biome whose list of characteristic taxa is a subset of another biome's list of characteristic taxa.


Plant Functional Types

Palaeoecological data are normally expressed in the form of abundances of individual plant taxa. In order to produce a global map, taxon information must be translated into a common language using the concept of "plant functional types" as advocated by IGBP-GCTE (Steffen et al. 1992).

A "plant functional type" is defined in terms of basic biology (leaf form, habit, phenology) and bioclimatic tolerance. Examples of PFTs are:

  • tropical evergreen tree
  • temperate summergreen tree
  • cool-temperate conifer tree
  • microphyllous shrub
  • arctic/alpine forb

Plant taxa identified in the palaeorecord are assigned a priori to one or more PFTs based on a knowledge of the basic biology (leaf form, habit, phenology) and the modern bioclimatic distribution of the species included within a PFT. A taxon may potentially belong to more than one PFT, if it includes several species that represent different PFTs or individual species that can behave as different PFTs in different environments.


BIOME 6000 Bibliography

Prentice, C.I., Guiot, J., Huntley, B., Jolly D. and Cheddadi, R., (1996) Reconstructing biomes from palaeoecological data: a general method and its application to European pollen data at 0 and 6 ka. Climate Dynamics 12(3):185-194. (DOI)


Jolly, D., Prentice, C.I., Bonnefille, R., Ballouche, A., Bengo, M., Brenac, P., Buchet, G., Burney, D., Cazet, J-P., Cheddadi, R., Edorh, T., Elenga, H., Elmoutaki, S., Guiot, J., Laarif, F., Lamb, H., Lezine, A-M., Maley, J., Mbenza, M., Peryon, O., Reille, M., Reynaud-Farrera, I., Riollet, G., Ritchie, J.C., Roche, E., Scott, L., Ssemmanda, I., Straka, H., Umer, M., Van Campo, E., Vilimumbalo, S., Vincens, A. and Waller, M., (1998) Biome reconstruction from pollen and plant macrofossil data for Africa and the Arabian peninsula at 0 and 6000 years. Journal of Biogeography 25, 1007-1027. (DOI)

Tarasov, P.E., Webb III, T., Andreev, A.A., Afanas'eva, N.B., Berezina, N.A., Bezusko, L.G., Blyakharchuk, T.A., Bolikhovskaya, N.S., Cheddadi, R., Chernavskaya, M.M., Chernova, G.M., Dorofeyuk, N.I., Dirksen, V.G., Elina, G.A., Filimonova, L.V., Glebov, F.Z., Guiot, J., Gunova, V.S., Harrison, S.P., Jolly, D., Khomutova, V.I., Kvavadze, E.V., Osipova, I.M., Panova, N.K., Prentice, I.C., Saarse, L., Sevastyanov, Volkova, V.S., Zernitskaya, V.P., (1998) Present-day and mid-Holocene biomes reconstructed from pollen and plant macrofossil data from the former Soviet Union and Mongolia. Journal of Biogeography 25, 1029-1053. (DOI)

Yu, G., Prentice, I.C., Harrison, S.P., Sun, X., (1998) Pollen-based biome reconstruction for China at 0 and 6000 years. Journal of Biogeography, 25, 1055-1069. (DOI)



Pre-print text and figures for all 2nd Special Issue papers

Edwards, M.E., Anderson, P.M., Brubaker, L.B., Ager, T., Andreev, A.A., Bigelow, N.H., Cwynar, L.C., Eisner, W.R., Harrison, S.P., Hu, F.-S., Jolly, D., Lozhkin, A.V., MacDonald, G.M., Mock, C.J., Ritchie, J.C., Sher, A.V., Spear, R.W., Williams, J. and Yu, G., (2000). Pollen-based biomes for Beringia 18,000, 6000 and 0 14C yr B.P. Journal of Biogeography 27: 521-554. (DOI)

Thompson, R.S. and Anderson, K.H., (2000) Biomes of western North America at 18,000, 6,000 and 0 14C yr B.P. reconstructed from pollen and packrat midden data. Journal of Biogeography 27: 555-584. (DOI)

Williams, J.W., Webb III, T., Richard, P.H. and Newby, P., (2000) Late quaternary biomes of Canada and the eastern United States. Journal of Biogeography 27: 585-607. (DOI)

Tarasov, P.E., Volkova, V.S., Webb III, T., Guiot, J., Andreev, A.A., Bezusko, L.G., Bezusko, T.V., Bykova, G.V., Dorofeyuk, N.I., Kvavadze, E.V., Osipova, I.M., Panova, N.K. and Sevastyanov, D.V., (2000) Last glacial maximum biomes reconstructed from pollen and plant macrofossil data from northern Eurasia. Journal of Biogeography 27: 609-620. (DOI)

Elenga, H., Peryon, O., Bonnefille, R., Prentice, I.C., Jolly, D., Cheddadi, R., Guiot, J., Andrieu, V., Bottema, S., Buchet, G.-L., de Beaulieu, J.L., Hamilton, A.C., Maley, J., Marchant, R., Perez-Obiol, R., Reille, M., Riollet, G., Scott, L., Straka, H., Taylor, D., Van Campo, E., Vincens, A., Laarif, F. and Jonson, H., (2000) Pollen-based reconstruction for Southern Europe and Africa 18,000 years ago. Journal of Biogeography 27: 621-634. (DOI)

Yu, G., Chen, X., Ni, J., Cheddadi, R., Guiot, J., Han, H., Harrison, S.P., Huang, C., Ke, M., Kong, Z., Li, S., Li, W., Liew, P., Liu, G., Liu, J., Liu, K.-B., Prentice, I.C., Qui, W., Ren, G., Song, C., Sugita, S., Sun X., Tang, L., Van Campo, E., Xia, Y., Xu, Q., Yan, S., Yang, X., Zhao, J., Zheng, Z. (2000) Palaeovegetation of China: a pollen data-based synthesis for the mid-Holocene and last glacial maximum. Journal of Biogeography 27:635-664. (DOI)

Takahara, H., Sugita, S., Harrison, S.P., Miyoshi, N., Morita, Y. and Uchiyama, T., (2000) Pollen-based reconstruction of Japanese biomes at 0, 6000 and 18,000 14C yr B.P. Journal of Biogeography 27: 665-683. (DOI)



Bigelow, N. H., Brubaker, L. B., Edwards, M. E., Harrison, S. P., Prentice, I. C., Anderson, P. M., Andreev, A. A., Bartlein, P. J., Christensen, T. R., Cramer, W., Kaplan, J. O., Lozhkin, A. V., Matveyeva, N. V., Murray, D. V., McGuire, A. D., Razzhivin, V. Y., Ritchie, J. C., Smith, B., Walker, D. A., Gajewski, K., Wolf, V., Holmqvist, B. H., Igarashi, Y., Kremenetskii, K., Paus, A., Pisaric, M. F. J., and Vokova, V. S. (2003 - in press). Climate change and Arctic ecosystems I. Vegetation changes north of 55°N between the last glacial maximum, mid-Holocene and present. Journal of Geophysical Research.-Atmosphere 108, No. D19, 8170. (DOI)

For the Pan-Arctic INitiative (PAIN) website click here

Harrison, S. P., and Prentice, I. C. (2003). Climate and CO2 controls on global vegetation distribution at the last glacial maximum: analysis based on palaeovegetation data, biome modelling and palaeoclimate simulations. Global Change Biology 9, 983-1004. (DOI)

Harrison, S. P., Yu, G., Takahara, H., and Prentice, I. C. (2001). Palaeovegetation - Diversity of temperate plants in east Asia. Nature 413, 129-130. (DOI)

Pickett, E., Harrison, S. P., Hope, G., Harle, K., Dodson, J. R., Kershaw, A. P., Prentice, I. C., Backhouse, J., Colhoun, E. A., D'Costa, D., Flenley, J., Grindrod, J., Haberle, S., Hassell, C., Kenyon, C., Macphail, M., Martin, H., Martin, A. H., McKenzie, M., Newsome, J. C., Penny, D., Powell, J., Raine, I., Southern, W., Stevenson, J., Sutra, J.-P., Thomas, I., van der Kaars, S., and Ward, J. (2004). Pollen-based reconstructions of biome distributions for Australia, South East Asia and the Pacific (SEAPAC region) at 0, 6000 and 18,000 14C yr B.P. Journal of Biogeography 31(9), 1381-1444. (DOI)


Peng, C.H., J. Guiot, E. van Campo and R. Chedaddi (1995) Temporal and spatial variations of terrestrial biomes and carbon storage since 13 000 yr BP in Europe: reconstruction from pollen data and statistical models. Water, Air and Soil Pollution 82: 375-390.

Cheddadi, R., Yu, G., Guiot, J. Harrison, S.P. and Prentice, I.C., 1996. The climate 6000 years ago in Europe. Climate Dynamics 13: 1-9.

Guiot, J., R. Cheddadi, I.C. Prentice and D. Jolly (1996) A method of biome mapping from pollen data: application to Europe 6000 years ago. Palaeoclimates: Data and Modelling 1, 311-324.

Texier, D. de Noblet, N., Harrison, S.P., Haxeltine, A., Joussaume, S., Jolly, D., Laarif, F., Prentice, I.C. and Tarasov, P.E., 1997. Quantifying the role of biosphere-atmosphere feedbacks in climate change: a coupled model simulation for 6000 yr B.P. and comparison with palaeodata for Northern Eurasia and northern Africa. Climate Dynamics 13: 865-881.

Broström, A., Coe, M., Harrison, S.P., Gallimore, R., Kutzbach, J.E., Foley, J., Prentice, I.C. and Behling, P., 1997. Land surface feedbacks and palaeomonsoons in northern Africa. Geophysical Research Letters. 25: 3615-3618.

Hoelzmann, P., Jolly, D., Harrison, S.P., Laarif, F., Bonnefille, R. and Pachur, H.-J., 1998. Mid-Holocene land-surface conditions in northern Africa and the Arabian peninsula: a data set for AGCM simulations. Global Biogeochemical Cycles 12: 35-52.

Jolly, D., Harrison, S.P., Damnati, B. and Bonnefille, R., 1998. Simulated climate and biomes of Africa during the Late Quaternary: comparison with pollen and lake status data. In: Webb, T. III (Ed), Late Quaternary Climates: Data Syntheses and Model Experiments. Quaternary Science Reviews 17: 629-657

Prentice, I.C., Harrison, S.P., Jolly, D. and Guiot, J., 1998 The climate and biomes of Europe at 6000 yr BP: Comparison of model simulations and pollen-based reconstructions. In: Webb, T. III (Ed), Late Quaternary Climates: Data Syntheses and Model Experiments. Quaternary Science Reviews 17: 659-668.

Jolly, D., Prentice, I.C., Guiot, J., Bengo, M., Bonnefille, R., Brénac, P., Buchet, G., Edorh, T., Elenga, H., Lézine, A.M., Maley, J., Reynaud-Ferrara, I., Riollet, G. et Vincens, A. (1998). Reconstruction de biomes à partir des données polliniques actuelles d'Afrique de l'Ouest. Géographie physique et Quaternaire.

Joussaume, S., Taylor, K.E., Braconnot, P., Mitchell, J., Kutzbach, J., Harrison, S.P., Prentice, I.C., Abe-Ouchi, A., Bartlein, P.J., Bonfils, C., Broccoli, A.J., Dong, B., Guiot, J., Herterich, K., Hewitt, C., Jolly, D., Kim, J.W., Kislov, A., Kitoh, A., Loutre, M.-F., Masson, V., McAvaney, B., McFarlane, N., de Noblet, N., Peltier, W.R., Peterschmitt, J.Y., Pollard, D., Rind, D., Royer, J.F., Schlesinger, M.E., Syktus, J., Thompson, S., Valdes, P., Vettoretti, G., Webb, R.S., Wyputta, U. (1999) Monsoon changes for 6000 years ago: results of 18 simulations from the Paleoclimate Modeling Intercomparison Project (PMIP). Geophysical Research Letters, 26: 859-862.

Peyron O, Guiot J, Cheddadi R, Tarasov P, Reille M, de Beaulieu JL, Bottema S, Andrieu V (1998) Climate reconstruction in Europe for 18,000 YR B.P. from pollen data. Quaternary Research 49: 183-196.

Williams, J.W., Summers, R.L. & Webb III, T. (1998) Applying plant functional types to construct biome maps from eastern North American pollen data: Comparisons with model results. Quaternary Science Reviews 17, 607-628.

Harrison, S. P., Yu, G., Takahara, H., and Prentice, I. C. (2001). Palaeovegetation - Diversity of temperate plants in east Asia. Nature 413, 129-130. (DOI)

Harrison, S.P., Kutzbach, J.E., Liu, Z., Bartlein, P.J., Otto-Bleisner, B., Muhs, D., Prentice, I.C. and Thompson, R.S., 2003. Mid-Holocene climates of the Americas: a dynamical response to changed seasonality. Climate Dynamics 20: 663-688. (DOI 10.1007/s00382-002-0300-6).

Harrison, S.P. and Prentice, I.C., 2003 Climate and CO2 controls on global vegetation distribution at the last glacial maximum: analysis based on palaeovegetation data, biome modelling and palaeoclimate simulations Global Change Biology 9: 983-1004.

Kaplan, J.O., Bigelow, N.H., Bartlein, P.J., Christensen, T.R., Cramer, W., Harrison, S.P., Matveyeva, N.V., McGuire, A.D., Murray, D.F., Prentice, I.C., Razzhivin, V.Y., Smith, B. and Walker, D.A., Anderson, P.M., Andreev, A.A., Brubaker, L.B., Edwards, M.E., Lozhkin, A.V. and Ritchie, J. Climate change and Arctic ecosystems II: Modeling, palaeodata-model comparisons, and future projections. Journal of Geophysical Research-Atmosphere 108, No. D19, 8171. (DOI: 10.1029/2002JD002559).

Wohlfahrt, J., Harrison, S.P. and Braconnot, P., 2004. Synergistic feedbacks between ocean and vegetation on mid- and high-latitude climates during the mid-Holocene. Climate Dynamics 22: 223-238.

Braconnot, P., Harrison, S.P., Joussaume, S., Hewitt, C.D., Kitoh, A., Kutzbach, J., Liu, Z., Otto-Bleisner, B., Syktus, J and Weber, S.L., in press. Evaluation of coupled ocean-atmosphere simulations of the mid-Holocene. In: Battarbee, R.W., Gasse, F., Stickley, C.E. (Eds), Past Climate Variability through Europe and Africa. Kluwer Academic Publishers.

Yu, G., Harrison, S.P., Chen, X. and Zheng, Y., in press. Late Pleistocene palaeoclimate simulations and data-model comparisons for the East Asia monsoon system. In: Fu, C.B. (Ed) Changes in the Human-Monsoon system of East Asia in the Context of Global Change. Part 1. A Review of Global Change Research in East Asia. SCOPE/START Rapid Assessment Project.


What's new?

A new version of the BIOME 6000 database (Version 4.2) has been prepared. This version contains ALL of the published data now available and includes data from the first and second special issues, an update for China during the LGM (Harrison et al., 2001), data from the SEAPAC region and an extended data set for the high northern latitudes developed by the PAIN project. BIOME 6000 Version 4.2 is now available to the scientific community click here


Related Projects

CiMBIO - Circum-Mediterranean BIOmes initiative
INDSUBIO - INDian SUBcontinent BIOmes
Northern Eurasia Biomes Working Group
PAIN - Pan-Arctic INitiative