Tag Archives: amazonian

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Historical Human Footprint on Modern Tree Species Composition in the Purus-Madeira Interfluve, Central Amazonia

Just as has/is still being discovered in the US, recent research in the Amazon supports the idea that forests worldwide are the product of mutualist interactions with human inhabitants.

Burning, selective harvest, tillage, seed propagation, etc. were skillfully employed by ancient peoples to make their environment an “edible forest.”

Such cultures were the original affluent societies, working only a few hours per day to harvest the forest burgeoning with ultra-healthy wild foods and resources for tools, usually spending more of their time dancing than working (see Chagnon 1983 and Gowdy 1998).

These findings suggest the idea of “preserving” nature, or cordoning off huge tracts of forest to keep it “wild” is nonsensical, and perpetuates the harmful idea that humans are separate from nature. To restore these ecosystems and have humans and other creatures flourish together, we must rediscover ways of living with the forest, becoming the wise stewards our ancestors once were.

Quoting from the abstract (my italics):

“Background

Native Amazonian populations managed forest resources in numerous ways, often creating oligarchic forests dominated by useful trees. The scale and spatial distribution of forest modification beyond pre-Columbian settlements is still unknown, although recent studies propose that human impact away from rivers was minimal. We tested the hypothesis that past human management of the useful tree community decreases with distance from rivers.

Conclusions/Significance

These results strongly suggest that past forest manipulation was not limited to the pre-Columbian settlements along major rivers, but extended over interfluvial areas considered to be primary forest today. The sustainable use of Amazonian forests will be most effective if it considers the degree of past landscape domestication, as human-modified landscapes concentrate useful plants for human sustainable use and management today.”

A good post about this: http://anthropogen.com/2013/10/18/is-amazonian-tree-biodiversity-species-distribution-a-product-of-past-landscape-domestication/

References:

Chagnon, N. A. 1983. Yanomamo: the fierce people (3rd ed.). Holt, Rinehart and Winston, New York, NY.

Gowdy, J. M. 1998. Limited wants, unlimited means: a reader on hunter-gatherer economics and the environment. Island Press, Washington, DC.

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