ROYAL ANTHROPOLOGICAL INSTITUTE AND THE DEPARTMENT OF AFRICA, OCEANIA AND THE AMERICAS OF THE BRITISH MUSEUM

Anthropology, Weather & Climate Change

(P31)
Indigenous populations-vegetation-climate relationship in the past: what can this teach us about sustainable vegetation use in the present?
Location Senate House - Torrington Room
Date and Start Time 28 May, 2016 at 09:00
Sessions 5

Convenors

  • Macarena Cárdenas (University of Reading) email
  • Francis Mayle (University of Reading) email

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Short Abstract

This panel invites multiple research disciplines and concerned private and public sectors to share evidence and discuss how knowledge of past climate change and past land use by indigenous cultures help us to understand what affects the vegetation and how this information can be used to protect it.

Long Abstract

Threats of climate change and expanding human urbanisation makes the future of worldwide vegetation uncertain. Increasing demands of land for the growing global human population adds pressure to people and governments to protect the remaining native vegetation. Nevertheless, are the large efforts of protecting what seems to be the last places of “pristine” vegetation adequate or enough?

Understanding the impact of different factors in changing the vegetation is crucial for their protection. Although modelling is becoming a valid methodology to determine the main factors involved in vegetational change, it is still not specific enough to account for individual communities. Specific information of how the vegetation responds to climate change and human impact can be found in palaeoecological, palaeoclimatic and archaeological studies; these studies give us clues to how the vegetation responds to main factors from millennial to centennial time scales. Combining these disciplines we can also help us to understand the role that past human populations had within a specific landscape allow us to evaluate the role that past humans played in shaping the vegetation we see today.

Here we propose a discussion amongst archaeologists, palaeoecologists, palaeoeclimatologists, human geographers, anthropologists, policy makers and NGOs to share both evidence and techniques as well to discuss to what extent past cultures and climate modulated the vegetation we see today in areas considered pristine or well preserved. Special emphasis is to evaluate what can be learned about past cultures and their vegetation/landscape use to help land management and conservation today. We expect this discussion to help integrate valuable knowledge and facilitate decision making today in creating, protecting and improving endangered vegetation communities.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Out of Amazonia: Late Holocene Climate Change and the Tupi-Guarani Trans-Continental Expansion

Authors: Jonas Gregorio de Souza (University of Exeter)  email
Francis Mayle (University of Reading)  email
Richard Jones  email
Jose Iriarte (University of Exeter)  email

Short Abstract

This paper discusses the role of climate and social factors in the late Holocene expansion of the Tupi-Guarani languages from southern Amazonia to SE South America by comparing continental-scale paleoecological, paleoclimate, and archaeological datasets.

Long Abstract

The late Holocene expansion of the Tupi-Guarani languages from southern Amazonia to SE South America constitutes one of the largest expansions of any linguistic family in the world, spanning ~ 4000 km between latitudes 0°S and 35°S at about 2500 yr B.P. However, the underlying reasons for this expansion are a matter of debate. Here, we compare continental-scale paleoecological, paleoclimate, and archaeological datasets, to examine the role of climate change in facilitating the expansion of this forest-farming culture. Because this expansion lies within the path of the South American Low-Level Jet, the key mechanism for moisture transport across lowland South America, we were able to explore the relationship between climate change, forest expansion, and the Tupi-Guarani. Our data synthesis shows broad synchrony between late Holocene increasing precipitation and southerly expansion of both tropical forest and Guarani archaeological sites - the southernmost branch of the Tupi-Guarani. We conclude that climate change likely facilitated expansion of the Guarani forest-farming culture by increasing the area of forested landscape that they could exploit, showing a prime example of ecological opportunism.

Pre-Columbian raised-field agriculture in Amazonian Bolivia -- What lessons for sustainable land use today?

Authors: Francis Mayle (University of Reading)  email
Bronwen Whitney (Northumbria University Newcastle)  email
Ruth Dickau (HD Analytical Solutions, Inc.)  email
Jose Iriarte (University of Exeter)  email

Short Abstract

We use an integrative approach to examine pre-Columbian raised-field agriculture in the seasonally-flooded savannas of the Bolivian Amazon. We examine the extent to which these historical insights may hold lessons for poverty alleviation and sustainable land use in the future.

Long Abstract

The seasonally-flooded savannas (Llanos de Moxos) of Amazonian Bolivia are a sparsely populated landscape, roughly the size of England, and home to some of the poorest communities in South America. Although prime cattle-ranching country, the impermeable seasonally-flooded clay soils are considered unsuitable for arable farming. The discovery by William Denevan in the late 1950s of vast areas of Pre-Columbian (pre-AD1492) agricultural raised fields across much of this region was therefore remarkable and completely unexpected. Here, we present integrated palaeoecological and archaeobotanical data which reveal the complex land-use history of these ancient raised fields. Although manioc is the dominant staple crop across Amazonia today (due in part to its tolerance of poor soils), we find that nutrient-demanding maize was a staple crop on these ancient raised fields, indicating that pre-Columbian farmers must have improved soil fertility to permit its cultivation. Land-use practice changed through time. Burning was common prior to AD1300 but appears to have been suppressed subsequently, as sweet potato was brought into cultivation alongside maize. Agriculture declined following the European Encounter, although we find evidence of sweet potato cultivation as late as AD 1800. We explore the potential role of past climate change in driving some of these land-use changes and consider the feasibility of re-introducing raised-field agriculture as a means of poverty alleviation in the context of future climate change, and in the light of recent NGO-funded experimental raised-field initiatives.

Dynamics of the Brazilian Araucaria forest and its responses to human land use and climate change, a long term perspective

Authors: Macarena Cárdenas (University of Reading)  email
Francis Mayle (University of Reading)  email
Lauri Schorn (Universidade Regional de Blumenau)  email
Jose Iriarte (University of Exeter)  email

Short Abstract

Here we show evidence of past land use and interaction with native vegetation by pre-Columbian societies and discuss both the potential of learning from this information and using it for conservation as well as the importance of long term and interdisciplinary studies.

Long Abstract

The Araucaria Moist Forest of southern Brazil is a unique ecological mosaic, dominated by the 'Parana pine' (Araucaria angustifolia), an iconic 'living fossil', dating back to the Mesozoic era. This forest comprises part of the Atlantic Forest, a global biodiversity hotspot with exceptionally high levels of endemism. Unfortunately, after centuries of deforestation, Araucaria angustifolia is now critically endangered, restricted to only 3% of its original distribution. Even though this species is protected by Brazilian law, the rise in temperatures and changes in precipitation predicted under future climate change represent an additional challenge to the conservation of this endangered species.

However, in contrast to the negative impact of humans since colonial times, there is evidence that pre-Columbian societies in the region may actually have favoured the expansion of this species. Palaeoecological and archaeological evidence show the appearance of the Jê indigenous culture's settlements coinciding with both climatic change (increasing precipitation) and the abrupt expansion of Araucaria moist forest approximately 1000 years ago. Here, based on our research using an interdisciplinary approach, combining palaeoecology, archaeology and ecology, we examine the relationship between changes in human land use, climate change, and Brazil's Araucaria forest over the past several millennia. We discuss the potential implications of this long-term historical perspective for conservation policy.

Investigating Plant Management in the Tucumã (Pará-Brazil) and Monte Castelo (Rondônia- Brazil) ShellMidden using Phytoliths Analysis

Authors: Lautaro Maximilian Hilbert  email
Denise Schaan (Universidade Federal do Pará)  email
Jose Iriarte (University of Exeter)  email

Short Abstract

This proposition will study the micro botanical remains of two early Holocene shell mounds located in the Brazilian lowland Amazon. In order to comprehend the dietary preferences of these inhabitants, the main tool for this study will stem from phytolith analyses.

Long Abstract

This proposition will address and evaluate the micro botanical remains of the Monte Castelo (9343 calB.P) shell mound in the south western lowland Amazonia (state of Rondonia) and the sambaqui do Tucumã (7.000 -4.000 B.P) located in south-east lower Amazon River (state of Para). The focus in identifying and evaluating the floral dietary peculiarities of these specific pre-Colombian settlements derives from the principle that the south and south-east Brazilian shell mound occupants are known to have had a broad-spectrum diet based on the exploration of their environment. The mound inhabitants are referred on modern dietary studies as fisher-hunter mollusc and plant gatherer societies. However the presence of plants processing tools collected in the previously referred sites (Monte Castelo and Tucumã) leads to the main question that guides this research: is possible to comprehend the mound inhabitants of Monte Castelo and Tucumã as part of an agricultural sustainable society?

Using Coprophilous Fungal Spores to Detect Abandoned Reindeer Milking Sites in Northern Sweden

Authors: Mari Kuoppamaa (University of Lapland)  email
Bruce Forbes (University of Lapland)  email
Kjell-åke Aronsson (Ájtte Mountain and Sami Museum)  email

Short Abstract

Pollen and coprophilous fungal spore analysis are used as a tool to investigate the vegetation changes driven by the local presence of reindeer, and the timing and duration of the reindeer milking practiced by the indigenous Sami of the northern Fennoscandia.

Long Abstract

Reindeer (Rangifer tarandus) is the single most dominant large herbivore affecting the vegetation of the northern Fennoscandia. It has been observed throughout the Arctic and especially in Fennoscandia and northern Russia that human impact, e.g. concentrated grazing and trampling by semi-domesticated reindeer herds have changed the vegetation by creating graminoid dominated green patches, which may persist over the centuries. However, the recent warming has driven vegetation changes in these areas by increasing the shrub growth and it remains to be seen if these lawns will persist further.

Two sites, Suollagavallda and Viejevágge, located in the Swedish Scandes Mountains were chosen for a high resolution pollen and coprophilous fungal spore analysis. Both sites are in mountain valleys with numerous ancient dwelling sites indicated by rows of hearths and circular depressions on the ground. Sami have traditionally practiced reindeer milking in the area during the summer months, and the animals have been kept on site for some weeks at the time, year after year repeatedly over several generations, which has had its effect on the vegetation. The aim of this study was to use the coprophilous fungal spores to detect the local presence of reindeer and the timing and duration of the reindeer milking in the area. The information from pollen and coprophilous fungal spores will also be used to plan for the geoarchaeological and geochemical survey in the Suollakavaldda site during the summer 2016.

The making of the forest: past human impact on species distribution in the southern Brazilian highlands

Authors: Jonas Gregorio de Souza (University of Exeter)  email
Mark Robinson (University of Exeter)  email

Short Abstract

We combine excavation data, radiocarbon dating, anthracology and GIS at the site and regional levels to explore past human management of the forest in the southern Brazilian highlands. We point to future directions of research to test the potential human impact on the distribution of useful species

Long Abstract

Human impact on forest composition has been at the centre of the most recent debates about the prehistory of the southern Brazilian highlands, mainly in relation to the spread of Araucaria angustifolia (Parana pine). In this paper, we show how our multidisciplinary project in Campo Belo do Sul, Santa Catarina, can shed new light on that problem. Combining data from archaeological excavation, radiocarbon dating, anthracology and GIS modelling, we show future directions of research in human-environment relations. At the site level, we explore a domestic context from a pit house site (Baggio 1), where an unprecedented sequence of burnt roofs allowed us to assess the importance of palms as constructive material - even though this species appears to be rare in the modern natural vegetation. This data suggest potential past management of Syagrus romanzoffiana and other native palms, besides Araucaria angustifolia. We contrast our finds with the present day vegetation that is the result of recent deforestation and abandonment of traditional practices such as the encouraging of useful species (e.g. palms). Moving to the regional level, we explore ways of modelling the possible natural extension of Araucaria angustifolia, and discuss how future research can test the degree of human management in the distribution of that species

Indigenous perceptions on environmental change and its impacts on water resources in Southwestern, Nigeria

Author: Amidu Owolabi Ayeni (University of Lagos)  email

Short Abstract

The study inferred a good corroboration between the data of climate and LULC and the indigenous views, and the information could be used in a participatory approach to assess the impact of environmental change on an important service of ecosystems such as fresh water resources.

Long Abstract

This investigated whether the perception of rural population on environmental changes - climatic condition and land use / land cover change (LULCC) in the woodland savanna and rain forest zones of Southwestern, Nigeria can be used to evaluate water resources potential in the region. LULCC was conducted using orthorectified Landsat multi-temporal imagery for 1970/1972, 1986/1987, 2000/2001 and 2006 using maximum likelihood classification and change detection techniques. The results showed a decrease in the forest area and an increase in built-up and cultivation/others (open space, bare land, grassland) areas. Between 1972 and 2006, forest reduced by about 50% while built-up areas increased by about 300%. A Participatory Learning Approach (PLA) involving indigenous population was conducted to assess their perceptions in the region on LULCC, the drivers of change, and the associated risk and local adaptation measures. The results revealed that changes in climatic and LULC in the last 30 years and various anthropogenic activities are the factors responsible for declining in surface water in the region.

Multi-temporal Analysis of Agriculture and Environmental Landscapes: Can past practices be adopted as adaptation measures to weather variability?

Author: Paulina Rosero  email

Short Abstract

This research analyses changing landscapes in 3 temporal moments: Integration Period, Spanish Colonization and Present in archaeological sites of Ecuador. Is discussed which practices can be rescued from the past to cope with environmental and agriculture vulnerability towards weather variability

Long Abstract

The following study presents part of the interdisciplinary project "Cultural and Technological Principles Associated with Occupation Modalities during the Integration Period: Value and Use in Present Day", which was developed in 5 archaeological sites. Particularly, this paper exposes the findings from the geographic perspective with the support of different type of information gathered by anthropologists, archaeologist, historians and geographers in the Andean and Costal regions of Ecuador. A comparative study is held between both regions in the implementation of agriculture systems, its biodiversity and ecosystem management. Each case is supported with several maps in three temporal moments: the Integration Period (500BC-1500AC), the Spanish Colonization (1500 AC) and Present. The objective is to identify the landscape transformation within time, the management of resources, adaptation practices and technologies in changing environments. Several data collected from the field, historical files, geodatabases and bibliography, is mapped to build models of past landscapes and territories. Spatial Analyst Tools such as map algebra, density, georeferencing and species distribution modelling are applied by the use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS). Each scenario is evaluated in terms of adaptability to the changing context and the social and technological responses to that context. Specifically, the modes to adapt to weather variability and seasonality are presented. The paper concludes that past practices can be adopted in the present for reducing the vulnerability in the agriculture sector and local economies. For this, is essential to consider social organization and cultural contexts where modes of subsistence are produced.

Wetlands, Sugar, and Archaeological Remote Sensing: Understanding the legacy effects of archaeological land use on modern Andean vegetation and environmental function

Author: Benjamin Vining (Wellesley College)  email

Short Abstract

Remote sensing archaeology reveals ancient land use structures vegetation dynamics in two regions of Peru. Both cases show the importance of understanding socio-ecological legacies to mitigate environmental change.

Long Abstract

Western concepts of nature contrast pristine environments with human impacts. However, land use sustained over millennia contributes to anthropogenic ecological networks, which can be characterized by human-vegetation interdependencies. Apparently "pristine" ecologies are illusory. This is perhaps particularly true in the neotropics, where human impacts are often subtle, cultural strategies may be tightly intertwined with the development of vegetation assemblages, and there is a general lack of familiarity with the complex ecological dynamics of these regions.

I compare two cases from the tropical Andean region of human - vegetation interactions with deep archaeological histories. These are anthropogenic bofedal wetlands of the high-altitude Andean plateau, and the influence of human-modified soils (anthrosols) on vegetation on Peru's north coast. Multispectral satellite imaging reveals subtle human impacts on vegetation phenology, which are not otherwise detectable. Archaeological and palaeoenvironmental data indicate these anthropogenic changes are linked to land use legacies from as early as 5 kyr BP. These legacies continue to influence environmental function and have divergent impacts on vegetation health.

In bofedales, human intervention enhances wetland health, helping to sustain moisture. Anthropogenic wetlands mitigated past adverse climates and help ensure modern water security in this arid region. North coast anthrosols, on the other hand, alternately accelerate or impede the growth stages in industrial sugarcane plantations, causing economic losses. Recognizing the impacts of past indigenous land use on modern vegetation is critical to conserving contemporary ecological function, as well as for addressing the challenges of global environmental changes.

Using Dynamic Socioecological System Modeling to Explore the Footprint of Prehistoric Agriculture in the western Mediterranean

Authors: Daniel Contreras (Aix-Marseille Université)  email
Alan Kirman (Aix Marseille University)  email
Joel Guiot (CNRS)  email

Short Abstract

Using a framework that couples agroecosystem, agent-based small-scale agriculture, and landscape evolution models, we explore the environmental footprint of prehistoric agriculture in the western Mediterranean. Model output is the potential range of human impacts on erosion and land cover.

Long Abstract

We present a modeling approach that couples agroecosystem, agent-based small-scale agriculture, and landscape evolution models to explore the environmental footprint of prehistoric agriculture in the western Mediterranean. Dynamically linking these models makes it possible produce concrete and quantifiable estimates of the landscape consequences of different subsistence strategies, agricultural practices, and demographic regimes under various climate scenarios. We use this modeling approach to explore the relationship between past climate, landscape and land cover, and prehistoric agriculture under climate scenarios that characterize the extremes of Mediterranean climate (warm/wet and cold/dry) during the Holocene. We adapt LPJmL (the Lund-Potsdam-Jena-managed-landscape model, (cf. Bondeau et al. 2007)) to the modeling of past agricultural productivity, employ a purpose-built NetLogo agent-based model of early western Mediterranean agriculture, and adapt a published GRASS GIS landscape evolution model. Calibrating these models for past crops and agricultural practices and using a combined downsampling and simulation approach to produce high spatiotemporal resolution paleoclimate data, we simulate realistic potential land use scenarios under past climatic conditions. We here discuss this process with reference to a case study in Provence, reviewing the methodology and data requirements for modeling past agricultural practices and examining the potential range of variability in anthropogenic impacts on erosion and land cover under distinct climate and subsistence scenarios.

Looking for anthropogenic forests in Amazonia: the potential and challenges in detecting a legacy of pre-Columbian land use.

Authors: John Carson (University of Reading)  email
Francis Mayle (University of Reading)  email

Short Abstract

Research from the historical ecological community has suggested that pre-Columbian land use created significant areas of anthropogenic forest in Amazonia. We present a critique of the potential and challenges of detecting such impact using historical ecological and palaeoecological approaches.

Long Abstract

It is now evident, from a growing body of archaeological research, that large, sedentary societies occupied parts of the Amazon Basin in pre-Columbian times (pre-1492 AD). These native groups employed land-use practices, such as agroforestry and soil improvement, which would likely have altered the plant communities around them. Some archaeologists and historical ecologists suggest that the legacy of this impact can still be seen today in Amazonian plant communities, across large areas of forest. If this hypothesis is correct, they argue, then the preservation of these anthropogenic forests will require a conservation strategy that incorporates traditional land use practices. However, some ecologists disagree, arguing that pre-Columbian impacts were not so spatially widespread, and that natural successional processes over the centuries since native population decline would erase any legacy of human management. Differentiating between what might be natural vs. anthropogenic plant communities, and identifying instances of significant human impact in the past, is a difficult endeavour. Here, we discuss these challenges, and present ongoing work that uses plant inventory data from forest plots in the south and western Amazon to test the efficacy of historical ecological methods in detecting anthropogenic forests. We also review the potential and difficulties involved in detecting historical land use using palaeoecological methods. Finally, we suggest an integrative approach, incorporating multiple lines of evidence, as the most effective way forward.

Past perspectives from East Africa on the Sustainable Development Goals

Authors: Rob Marchant (York Institute for Tropical Ecosystems)  email
Daryl Stump (University of York)  email
Paul Lane (Uppsala University)  email

Short Abstract

We focus on the complexity of temporal & spatial interactions & interdependencies in the social-ecological systems in a number of focal case studies in East Africa to understand the interactions between people, their environment, wildlife, & livelihoods over the past millennium.

Long Abstract

Recent initiatives such as the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment highlight the enormous value of the goods and services people obtain from nature, and their crucial role in supporting livelihoods. Ecosystems are the primary resource for human well-being & provide key functions essential to the sustainable economic development, especially for African nations whose economies are heavily dependent on agriculture, rangeland pastoralism, forestry management & wildlife tourism. East African environments are heterogeneous & dynamic, have a long history of interaction with human populations. We focus on the complexity of temporal & spatial interactions & interdependencies in the social-ecological systems in a number of focal case studies in East Africa to understand the interactions between people, their environment, wildlife, & livelihoods over the past millennium. These case studies have been selected to determine how societies, ecosystems & Protected Areas responded to climate change & management, so as to better understand how they may respond to future climate change, management interventions & societal use. Taking this perspective we assess the role of the past in developing nature-based solutions to contribute to East Africa achieving future sustainable development pathways such as achieving the SDGs.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.