Science & Technology

The deep roots of the “Anthropocene” can be found in tropical forests

Tropical forests regularly appear in the news as the forefront of climate change and human sustainability challenges. They are some of the most threatened terrestrial habitats on Earth and are therefore key to the debate of the Anthropocene (when human activity became a major influence of the Earth’s system).

A set of influential new articles edited by researchers at the Maxplank Institute for Human History Science and the Smithsonian Institute, where researchers from different disciplines and backgrounds need to look to plan for the future. Indicates that there is. Tropics Deep in the past for the roots of the Anthropocene.

Tropical Forests and Anthropocene – Present and Past

When we think of the Anthropocene, we often think of human activity with obvious ecosystem impacts, such as burning fossil fuels, fallout, or increased plastic production and pollution.NS Since the century.

However, tropical forests host more than half of the Earth’s biodiversity, produce heavy rainfall, lock soil in place, and store large amounts of carbon, so human alterations in these environments actually We also know that we can start the entire set of feedback. – A process that resonates with regions, continents, and even the Earth.

Tropical forest threatens habitat

Tropical forests represent some of the most threatened terrestrial habitats on the planet. Credit: R.Hamilton

Patrick Roberts, one of the editors of the new volume, points out that human alterations in tropical forests are “probably not just a recent phenomenon.”

“Tropical forests are often regarded as pristine’wilderness’before industrial activity, but hunter-gatherers, food producers, and even urban dwellers have long lived and changed in these environments. I understand that. ” Roberts. “Given that these habitats are embedded in various Earth systems, this opens up the possibility of finding the very early roots of the Anthropocene.”

Various managed tropical landscapes

new PNAS In a special feature entitled “Tropical Forests as Anthropocene Important Places,” people interacted in a variety of ways, from high-magnification microscopes to sediment cores, from archaeological excavations to aerial laser scans. It shows the various methods researchers are currently using to explore. Tropical ecosystems, climates and soils exist across space and time.

Another feature editor, Rebecca Hamilton, said: A comparison of tropical city life in southeastern China, and in the classic Maya world and Greater Angkor. “


People have long shaped tropical landscapes through hunting, land farming, and the establishment of complex urban developments, including Angkor, the capital of the Khmer dynasty (Cambodia) in the 9th and 15th centuries. Credit: R.Hamilton

Dolores Piperno, the third editor of this volume, emphasizes how a detailed reconstruction of human-environment interactions like these is essential to modern conservation approaches.

“Human engagement with tropical forests has taken many forms and locals have adapted to local scenarios. For example, in Peru’s Medioptumayo Argodon Reserve, indigenous communities have been forested for over 5,000 years. It emphasizes how to manage coverage and biodiversity and protect it through periods of great political, economic and social change. “

From the global “Anthropocene” to the fairer practice of tropical protection

However, understanding the origins of the Anthropocene in the tropics is not only important for modern biodiversity and ecosystem protection. It also reveals an imbalanced historical process that laid the foundation for how people interact with the tropical and earth systems today.

For example, an article focusing on the Canary Islands, Carboverde, and tropical New Guinea shows that the advent of European colonialism and subsequent industrialization disrupted the social ecology of the tropical system through land transformations (eg, conversions to plantations). (Emphasizes how it was made) and limits the activities of indigenous peoples.

“The term” Anthropocene “may suggest that our current sustainability plight is caused equally by all human societies and thus affects them all equally. .. But the contributors to this volume show that it has been an unequal and often disproportionate process, especially over the last 500 years, “says Roberts.

“Indigenous peoples of the tropics have been the most marginalized in human history these days,” continues Hamilton. “This collection marks the time to recognize the long-term importance of traditional indigenous land management in the tropics.”

Overall, researchers hope that this featured treatise will facilitate further engagement with indigenous groups of policy makers and ecologists and scholars of paleontology and social sciences.

“In this way, there is a great opportunity to develop a more equitable, sustainable and resilient future for human-environment interactions in these important, often misunderstood environments.” Roberts concludes.

See: “Tropical Forests as Anthropocene Important Places: Past and Present Perspectives”, Patrick Roberts, Rebecca Hamilton, Dolores R. Piperno, September 27, 2021 Minutes of the National Academy of Sciences..
DOI: 10.1073 / pnas.2109243118

The deep roots of the “Anthropocene” can be found in tropical forests The deep roots of the “Anthropocene” can be found in tropical forests

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