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Concept: Central Europe


8000 years ago, prior to Neolithic agriculture, Europe was mostly a wooded continent. Since then, its forest cover has been progressively fragmented, so that today it covers less than half of Europe’s land area, in many cases having been cleared to make way for fields and pasture-land. Establishing the origin of Europe’s current, more open land-cover mosaic requires a long-term perspective, for which pollen analysis offers a key tool. In this study we utilise and compare three numerical approaches to transforming pollen data into past forest cover, drawing on >1000 14C-dated site records. All reconstructions highlight the different histories of the mixed temperate and the northern boreal forests, with the former declining progressively since ~6000 years ago, linked to forest clearance for agriculture in later prehistory (especially in northwest Europe) and early historic times (e.g. in north central Europe). In contrast, extensive human impact on the needle-leaf forests of northern Europe only becomes detectable in the last two millennia and has left a larger area of forest in place. Forest loss has been a dominant feature of Europe’s landscape ecology in the second half of the current interglacial, with consequences for carbon cycling, ecosystem functioning and biodiversity.

Concepts: Landscape, Central Europe, Ecology, Europe, Germany, Forest, Western Europe, Ecosystem


Upper gastrointestinal (GI) bleeding is one of the most common, high risk emergency disorders in the western world. Almost nothing has been reported on longer term prognosis following upper GI bleeding. The aim of this study was to establish mortality up to three years following hospital admission with upper GI bleeding and its relationship with aetiology, co-morbidities and socio-demographic factors.

Concepts: Central Europe, Western Europe, Surgery, Western culture, Gastrointestinal bleeding, Western world, Gastroenterology, Upper gastrointestinal bleeding


Physical functioning (PF) is an essential domain of older persons' health and quality of life. Health behaviors are the main modifiable determinants of PF. Cross-sectionally, alcohol consumption appears to be linked to better PF, but longitudinal evidence is mixed and very little is known about alcohol consumption and longitudinal PF trajectories.

Concepts: Romania, Western Europe, Gross domestic product, Islam, Europe, Central Europe, Life, Eastern Europe


Recent studies found major conflicts between traditional taxonomy and genetic differentiation of grass snakes and identified previously unknown secondary contact zones. Until now, little is known about gene flow across these contact zones. Using two mitochondrial markers and 13 microsatellite loci, we examined two contact zones. One, largely corresponding to the Rhine region, involves the western subspecies Natrix natrix helvetica and the eastern subspecies N. n. natrix, whereas in the other, more easterly, contact zone two lineages meet that are currently identified with N. n. natrix and N. n. persa. This second contact zone runs across Central Europe to the southern Balkans. Our analyses reveal that the western contact zone is narrow, with parapatrically distributed mitochondrial lineages and limited, largely unidirectional nuclear gene flow. In contrast, the eastern contact zone is very wide, with massive nuclear admixture and broadly overlapping mitochondrial lineages. In combination with additional lines of evidence (morphology, phylogeny, divergence times), we conclude that these differences reflect different stages in the speciation process and that Natrix helvetica should be regarded as a distinct species. We suggest a nomenclatural framework for presently recognized grass snake taxa and highlight the need for reconciling the conflicts between genetics and taxonomy.

Concepts: International Code of Zoological Nomenclature, Snake, DNA, Genetics, Germany, Species, Central Europe, Eastern Europe


Concern has recently emerged regarding the safety of natural health products (NHPs)-therapies that are increasingly recommended by various health providers, including conventional physicians. Recognizing that most individuals in the Western world now consume vitamins and many take herbal agents, this study endeavored to determine levels of toxic element contamination within a range of NHPs.

Concepts: Christendom, Soviet Union, Central Europe, Western Europe, Medicine, Western culture, Western world


Human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) was discovered in the early 1980s when the virus had already established a pandemic. For at least three decades the epidemic in the Western World has been dominated by subtype B infections, as part of a sub-epidemic that traveled from Africa through Haiti to United States. However, the pattern of the subsequent spread still remains poorly understood. Here we analyze a large dataset of globally representative HIV-1 subtype B strains to map their spread around the world over the last 50years and describe significant spread patterns. We show that subtype B travelled from North America to Western Europe in different occasions, while Central/Eastern Europe remained isolated for the most part of the early epidemic. Looking with more detail in European countries we see that the United Kingdom, France and Switzerland exchanged viral isolates with non-European countries than with European ones. The observed pattern is likely to mirror geopolitical landmarks in the post-World War II era, namely the rise and the fall of the Iron Curtain and the European colonialism. In conclusion, HIV-1 spread through specific migration routes which are consistent with geopolitical factors that affected human activities during the last 50years, such as migration, tourism and trade. Our findings support the argument that epidemic control policies should be global and incorporate political and socioeconomic factors.

Concepts: Iron Curtain, Central Europe, World War II, Western world, Eastern Europe, Cold War, Western Europe, Europe


Intent and mitigating circumstances play a central role in moral and legal assessments in large-scale industrialized societies. Although these features of moral assessment are widely assumed to be universal, to date, they have only been studied in a narrow range of societies. We show that there is substantial cross-cultural variation among eight traditional small-scale societies (ranging from hunter-gatherer to pastoralist to horticulturalist) and two Western societies (one urban, one rural) in the extent to which intent and mitigating circumstances influence moral judgments. Although participants in all societies took such factors into account to some degree, they did so to very different extents, varying in both the types of considerations taken into account and the types of violations to which such considerations were applied. The particular patterns of assessment characteristic of large-scale industrialized societies may thus reflect relatively recently culturally evolved norms rather than inherent features of human moral judgment.

Concepts: Assessment, Extent, Judgment, Central Europe, Morality, Western world, Sociology, Western culture


The transition to farming is the process by which human groups switched from hunting and gathering wild resources to food production. Understanding how and to what extent the spreading of farming communities from the Near East had an impact on indigenous foraging populations in Europe has been the subject of lively debates for decades. Ethnographic and archaeological studies have shown that population replacement and admixture, trade, and long distance diffusion of cultural traits lead to detectable changes in symbolic codes expressed by associations of ornaments on the human body. Here we use personal ornaments to document changes in cultural geography during the Mesolithic-Neolithic transition. We submitted a binary matrix of 224 bead-types found at 212 European Mesolithic and 222 Early Neolithic stratigraphic units to a series of spatial and multivariate analyses. Our results reveal consistent diachronic and geographical trends in the use of personal ornaments during the Neolithisation. Adoption of novel bead-types combined with selective appropriation of old attires by incoming farmers is identified in Southern and Central Europe while cultural resistance leading to the nearly exclusive persistence of indigenous personal ornaments characterizes Northern Europe. We argue that this pattern reflects two distinct cultural trajectories with different potential for gene flow.

Concepts: Central Europe, Sweden, Eastern Europe, Culture, Western Europe, Europe, Archaeology, Neolithic


Forest ecosystems have been exposed to climate change for more than 100 years, whereas the consequences on forest growth remain elusive. Based on the oldest existing experimental forest plots in Central Europe, we show that, currently, the dominant tree species Norway spruce and European beech exhibit significantly faster tree growth (+32 to 77%), stand volume growth (+10 to 30%) and standing stock accumulation (+6 to 7%) than in 1960. Stands still follow similar general allometric rules, but proceed more rapidly through usual trajectories. As forest stands develop faster, tree numbers are currently 17-20% lower than in past same-aged stands. Self-thinning lines remain constant, while growth rates increase indicating the stock of resources have not changed, while growth velocity and turnover have altered. Statistical analyses of the experimental plots, and application of an ecophysiological model, suggest that mainly the rise in temperature and extended growing seasons contribute to increased growth acceleration, particularly on fertile sites.

Concepts: Beech, Central Europe, Statistics, Germany, Acceleration, Velocity, Kinematics, Europe


Genetic and fossil data often lack the spatial and temporal precision for tracing the recent biogeographic history of species. Data with finer resolution are needed for studying distributional changes during modern human history. Here, I show that printed wormholes in rare books and artwork are trace fossils of wood-boring species with unusually accurate locations and dates. Analyses of wormholes printed in western Europe since the fifteenth century document the detailed biogeographic history of two putative species of invasive wood-boring beetles. Their distributions now overlap broadly, as an outcome of twentieth century globalization. However, the wormhole record revealed, unexpectedly, that their original ranges were contiguous and formed a stable line across central Europe, apparently a result of competition. Extension of the wormhole record, globally, will probably reveal other species and evolutionary insights. These data also provide evidence for historians in determining the place of origin or movement of a woodblock, book, document or art print.

Concepts: Switzerland, Europe, Evolution, Central Europe, Printing, Fossil, Western world, Western culture