Within this research theme we explore natural archives such as sediment sequences from lakes and coastal waters, peat sequences and tree-ring records to extend the temporal range of different environmental parameters beyond the reach of monitoring series. The objective is to assess the development and extent of human impact on the environment in the perspective of natural variability and change. We use biological, physical or geochemical data obtained from carefully dated natural archives as proxies for past environmental change. By combining such time series with monitoring data and historical documents we aim at reconstructions across time scales of environmental governance and to increase awareness of the influence of humankind on the Earth system. Recent methodological advances within palaeoecology and geochemistry now enable quantitative or semi-quantitative reconstructions of a range of environmental parameters, such as land cover, land use, vegetation structure, soil development, permafrost distribution, water quality, aquatic ecosystem functioning and biodiversity. Statistical analysis and comparison with model simulations are important tools towards a process-based understanding. These research activities have well-established links to the Centre for Environmental and Climate Research (CEC) through joint funding of PhD projects and research education, particularly through the strategic research areas BECC (Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services in a Changing Climate) and Multistressors (Managing Multiple Stressors in the Baltic Sea). In addition, there are research connections to archaeology.