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Uncoupling human and climate drivers of late Holocene vegetation change in southern Brazil

Robinson, M., De Souza, J. G., Maezumi, S. Y., Cardenas, M., Pessenda, L., Prufer, K., Corteletti, R., Scunderlick, D., Mayle, F. E., De Blasis, P. and Iriarte, J. (2018) Uncoupling human and climate drivers of late Holocene vegetation change in southern Brazil. Scientific Reports, 8. 7800. ISSN 2045-2322

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1038/s41598-018-24429-5

Abstract/Summary

In the highlands of southern Brazil an anthropogenitcally driven expansion of forest occurred at the expense of grasslands between 1410 and 900cal BP, coincident with a period of demographic and cultural change in the region. Previous studies have debated the relative contributions of increasing wetter and warmer climate conditions and human landscape modifcations to forest expansion, but generally lacked high resoltiuon proxies to measure these efects, or have relied on single proxies to reconstruct both climate and vegetation. Here, we develop and test a model of natural ecosystem distribution against vegetation histories, paleoclimate proxies, and the archaeological record to distinguish human from temperature and precipitation impacts on the distribution and expansion of Araucaria forests during the late Holocene. Carbon isotopes from soil profles confrm that in spite of climatic fuctuations, vegetation was stable and forests were spatially limited to south-facing slopes in the absence of human inputs. In contrast, forest management strategies for the past 1400 years expanded this economically important forest beyond its natural geographic boundaries in areas of dense pre-Columbian occupation, suggesting that landscape modifcations were linked to demographic changes, the efects of which are still visible today.

Item Type:Article
Refereed:Yes
Divisions:Faculty of Science > School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Science > Department of Geography and Environmental Science
ID Code:77252
Publisher:Nature Publishing Group

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