The relationship between vegetation and surface pollen deposition is complex and still poorly understood. Many factors affect pollen deposition including the quantity of pollen produced which varies from species to species, the distance that individual pollen grains are transported before being deposited and the nature of the collecting surface.
Some of the most valuable and widely available evidence that we have for past vegetation and climate change is based on pollen data. Pollen is constantly deposited in lakes and peat bogs, producing, effectively, a continuous record of past vegetation change that can be thousands, or tens of thousands of years long. Even though a great deal is known about fossil pollen, relatively little is known about the present day relationship between vegetation and pollen deposition but a clear understanding of this relationship is essential if we are to fully understand past vegetation change. Arctic-alpine environments are potentially the best sources of modern analogues for Late-glacial and early Holocene plant communities. Extensive research is being conducted on patterns of surface pollen deposition on glacier foreland in southern Norway and also in a range of plant communities in Spitsbergen.