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„Indecent“ witnesses: Using faecal lipids to reconstruct human population growth in the Baltic Sea region

27.01.2022 09:30

Remains of human and livestock faeces in Baltic Sea sediment cores, the sampling of which is here being prepared by IOW researchers Sacha Plewe and Helge Arz, yield conclusions about population and wastewater development in the Baltic Sea region.
Sediment cores from the Baltic Sea are like a valuable archive that contain a wide variety of substances, which can provide information about the past of the Baltic Sea region. (Photo: IOW / J. Kaiser)

What rivers carry into the Baltic Sea usually ends up in one of its deep basins. Year after year, sediments are thus formed, piling up on top of each other over centuries and millennia. Geologists find so-called proxies in these deposits – evidence they use to reconstruct earlier environmental conditions. In a paper now published in the journal “Environmental Research”, Jérôme Kaiser from the IOW and Mathias Lerch from the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research show that population development and wastewater history in the Baltic Sea region can also be reconstructed in this way – with the help of the remains of faeces!

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