The study of soils, sediments, pollen, seeds, insects and snails can all throw light on past human influence on the environment. These remains provide evidence of climate and sea-level change, and of the impact humans have had on their surroundings. Such evidence is particularly important in demonstrating the manner in which the landscape has changed from its original "natural" form to its present state. It can also throw light on diet and agricultural practices in the past. Such environmental evidence is easily lost through human intervention which inadvertently destroys the conditions necessary for its preservation. In Devon, areas of peat and wetlands, the small mires around springs, and coastal, intertidal and estuarine environments may all preserve important palaeoenvironmental material.
The coastal zone, both below and above the water's edge, is historically very important in a maritime county such as Devon. Its archaeology extends from wrecks to submerged landscapes, from shipyards to coastal defences. Often submarine deposits are well preserved until exposed, when their deterioration can be rapid. This is a vulnerable resource, subject to many threats.
For a fascinating glimpse into the ancient past of the Dorset and East Devon coast visit the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site.