Pollen, microscopic charcoal and peat humification analyses were applied to radiocarbon-dated peat cores to examine environmental change before and after the mid-Holocene transition from hunter-gatherer (Mesolithic) to agricultural (Neolithic) communities in presently marginal upland pasture at Stanshiel Rig, Annandale, southern Scotland. The Mesolithic-Neolithic transition in northern Britain is characterised by a number of key environmental changes as well as economic shifts, including anthropogenic vegetation disturbance, sharply fluctuating temporal patterns of fire and the Ulmus decline. Deliberate vegetation modification by Mesolithic communities is not demonstrable at Stanshiel Rig, and openings in the woodland canopy may have been promoted by grazing by wild animals or have been a consequence of climate change. Changes in fire frequency are also correlated with peat- and pollen-stratigraphic evidence for shifts to a drier climate in the late Mesolithic, probably mediated through pedological and biomass-storage change. A single Ulmus decline occurred between ca. 5650 and 5600 cal B.P., and is related here to climate change. Neolithic-age impacts on the woodland were limited, and no cereal-type pollen were found. The difference between hunter-gatherer and opportunistic farmer/hunter-gatherer at this locality is argued to be insignificant, or not detectable palynologically. © Springer-Verlag 2002.