Authors:Macarena Cárdenas (University of Reading)
Francis Mayle (University of Reading)
Lauri Schorn (Universidade Regional de Blumenau)
Jose Iriarte (University of Exeter)
Paper 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.
Paper 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.
Indigenous populations-vegetation-climate relationship in the past: what can this teach us about sustainable vegetation use in the present?