Forgotten Ecologies: Recent Vegetation Transformations Reveal Past Human Influence
Christopher A. Kiahtipes, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Scholar, Institute for the Advanced Study of Culture and the Environment, University of South Florida
Humans leave lasting environmental legacies on the landscapes they occupy. From the fire-stick to the farm, human interventions in ecological process have important ramifications for future vegetation cover. Yet disentangling human-driven (anthropogenic) vegetation change from natural fluctuations in climate has proven difficult in the sedimentary record. I explore the conceptual and empirical challenges of identifying and assessing human-driven environmental change in archaeological and paleoecological contexts. I do so using my own research in the Mai Ndombe, Equateur, and Tchuapa provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Coring of deposits associated with archaeological sites and offsite peat-land complexes dispersed across the interior forest zone reveals regional patterns in climatic-forcing as well as the timing and extent of human interventions in the rain forest zone. At the conclusion, I make some comparisons with the archaeological/paleoecological records of the southeast US and consider whether there are common patterns in environmental transformations leading up the Colonial era.
Chris Kiahtipes is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Anthropology with the Institute for the Advanced Study of Culture and Environment. His research examines the combined influence of human societies and climate change on vegetation cover in Africa’s Congo Basin as well as the Great Basin region of North America. With a specialization in the recovery and analysis of plant microfossils, his research projects bring together archaeological and paleoecological methods to document the long-term influence of human societies on global ecosystems. Chris’ other research interests include fire ecology, quantitative methods, human behavioral ecology, and conservation biology.
This program is sponsored by the Central Gulf Coast Archaeological Society, and the Alliance for Weedon Island Archaeological Research and Education.