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The deep human prehistory of global tropical forests and its relevance for modern conservation

Roberts, P, Hunt, CO, Arroyo-Kalin, M, Evans, D and Boivin, N (2017) The deep human prehistory of global tropical forests and its relevance for modern conservation. Nature Plants, 3 (8). ISSN 2055-026X

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Significant human impacts on tropical forests have been considered the preserve of recent societies, linked to large-scale deforestation, resource mining, livestock grazing, and plantation industries. Cumulative archaeological evidence now demonstrates, however, that Homo sapiens has actively manipulated tropical forest ecologies for at least 45,000 years. It is clear that these millennia of impacts need to be taken into account when studying and conserving tropical forest ecosystems today. Nevertheless, archaeology has so far provided minimal practical insight into contemporary human-tropical forest interactions. Here, we review significant archaeological evidence for impacts of prehistoric hunter-gatherers, agriculturalists, and urban settlements on global tropical forests. We compare the challenges faced, as well as the solutions adopted, by these groups with those confronting present-day societies, which rely on tropical forests for ecosystem services, ranging from the maintenance of global carbon sinks to bioprospection for medicinal plants. We emphasise archaeology’s importance in not only promoting natural and cultural heritage in tropical forests, but also taking an active role in informing modern conservation and policy-making.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Anthropocene; Homo sapiiens; Tropical rainforests; Archaeology; Late Pleistocene; Holocene
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GE Environmental Sciences
Q Science > QH Natural history
Q Science > QK Botany
Divisions: Natural Sciences & Psychology (closed 31 Aug 19)
Publisher: Nature Publishing Group
Date Deposited: 14 Jun 2017 11:10
Last Modified: 04 Sep 2021 11:25
DOI or ID number: 10.1038/nplants.2017.93
URI: https://researchonline.ljmu.ac.uk/id/eprint/6697
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