Saturday, August 31, 2019

Humans Were Changing the Planet Earlier Than We Knew



Humans had caused significant landcover change on Earth up to 4000 years earlier than previously thought, University of Queensland researchers have found.

The School of Social Sciences' Dr Andrea Kay said some scientists defined the Anthropocene as starting in the 20th century, but the new research showed human-induced landcover change was globally extensive by 2000 BC.

Rice terraces in Bali ... farmers have been altering the Earth's surface for thousands of years. 
Image: Andrea Kay

The Anthropocene – the current geological age – is viewed as the period in which human activity has been the dominant influence on Earth’s climate and environment.

“The activities of farmers, pastoralists and hunter-gatherers had significantly changed the planet four milennia ago,‘‘ Dr Kay said.

The ArchaeoGLOBE project used an online survey to gather land-use estimates over the past 10,000 years from archaeologists with regional expertise.

‘‘The modern rate and scale of anthropogenic global change is far greater than those of the deep past, but the long-term cumulative changes that early food producers wrought on Earth are greater than many people realise,“ Dr Kay said.

"Even small-scale, shifting agriculture can cause significant change when considered at large scales and over long time-periods.“

Image: Lucas Stephens

Fellow researcher Dr Nicole Boivin said the innovative crowdsourcing-from-experts approach to pooling archaeological data had provided the project with a unique perspective.

‘‘Archaeologists possess critical datasets for assessing long-term human impacts to the natural world, but these remain largely untapped in terms of global-scale assessments,“ Dr Boivin said.

Another researcher on the team, Dr Alison Crowther, said the study could help plan for future climate scenarios.

“This research and the collaborative approach we used means we can better understand early land use as a driver of long-term global environmental changes across the Earth‘s system,“ Dr Crowther said.

Dr Kay, Dr Boivin, Dr Crowther and UQ Senior Research Fellow Dr Patrick Roberts each have joint appointments at UQ and The Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History’s Department of Archaeology.

Other researchers on the team were UQ’s head of archaeology, Associate Professor Andrew Fairbairn, and archaeologists from Australian National University, the University of Melbourne, University of Sydney, Flinders University and LaTrobe University.

Dr Kay, Dr Boivin, Dr Crowther and UQ Senior Research Fellow Dr Patrick Roberts each have joint appointments at UQ and The Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History's Department of Archaeology.

Other researchers on the team were UQ's head of archaeology, Associate Professor Andrew Fairbairn, and archaeologists from Australian National University, the University of Melbourne, University of Sydney, Flinders University and LaTrobe University.


Contacts and sources:
Dr Andrea KayUniversity of Queensland


Citation:  Archaeological assessment reveals Earth’s early transformation through land use
Lucas Stephens, Dorian Fuller, Nicole Boivin, Torben Rick, Nicolas Gauthier, Andrea Kay, Ben Marwick, Chelsey Geralda, Denise Armstrong, C. Michael Barton, Tim Denham, Kristina Douglass, Jonathan Driver, Lisa Janz, Patrick Roberts, J. Daniel Rogers, Heather Thakar, Mark Altaweel, Amber L. Johnson, Maria Marta Sampietro Vattuone, Mark Aldenderfer, Sonia Archila, Gilberto Artioli, Martin T. Bale, Timothy Beach, Ferran Borrell, Todd Braje, Philip I. Buckland, Nayeli Guadalupe Jiménez Cano, José M. Capriles, Agustín Diez Castillo, Çiler Çilingiroğlu, Michelle Negus Cleary, James Conolly, Peter R. Coutros, R. Alan Covey, Mauro Cremaschi, Alison Crowther, Lindsay Der, Savino di Lernia, John F. Doershuk, William E. Doolittle, Kevin J. Edwards, Jon M. Erlandson, Damian Evans, Andrew Fairbairn, Patrick Faulkner, Gary Feinman, Ricardo Fernandes, Scott M. Fitzpatrick, Ralph Fyfe, Elena Garcea, Steve Goldstein, Reed Charles Goodman, Jade Dalpoim Guedes, Jason Herrmann, Peter Hiscock, Peter Hommel, K. Ann Horsburgh, Carrie Hritz, John W. Ives, Aripekka Junno, Jennifer G. Kahn, Brett Kaufman, Catherine Kearns, Tristram R. Kidder, François Lanoë, Dan Lawrence, Gyoung-Ah Lee, Maureece J. Levin, Henrik B. Lindskoug, José Antonio López-Sáez, Scott Macrae, Rob Marchant, John M. Marston, Sarah McClure, Mark D. McCoy, Alicia Ventresca Miller, Michael Morrison, Giedre Motuzaite Matuzeviciute, Johannes Müller, Ayushi Nayak, Sofwan Noerwidi, Tanya M. Peres, Christian E. Peterson, Lucas Proctor, Asa R. Randall, Steve Renette, Gwen Robbins Schug, Krysta Ryzewski, Rakesh Saini, Vivian Scheinsohn, Peter Schmidt, Pauline Sebillaud, Oula Seitsonen, Ian A. Simpson, Arkadiusz Sołtysiak, Robert J. Speakman, Robert N. Spengler, Martina L. Steffen, Michael J. Storozum, Keir M. Strickland, Jessica Thompson, T. L. Thurston, Sean Ulm, M. Cemre Ustunkaya, Martin H. Welker, Catherine West, Patrick Ryan Williams, David K. Wright, Nathan Wright, Muhammad Zahir, Andrea Zerboni, Ella Beaudoin, Santiago Munevar Garcia, Jeremy Powell, Alexa Thornton, Jed O. Kaplan, Marie-José Gaillard, Kees Klein Goldewijk, Erle Ellis
Science 30 Aug 2019:
Vol. 365, Issue 6456, pp. 897-902
DOI: 10.1126/science.aax1192
http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.aax1192




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