LandCover6K: Using Archaeology to Improve Climate Models

Part of: Society for American Archaeology 82nd Annual Meeting, Vancouver, BC (2017)

LandCover6k is an international and interdisciplinary working group dedicated to reconstructing human land use across the Holocene. The goal of this initiative is to critically evaluate and improve models of anthropogenic land cover change used in climate science and historical modeling, work that is urgently needed. Current climate models make little use of the vast repository of evidence about human history, despite an awareness that humans are one agent of global change. Vegetation is known to change in response to many factors, including human land use, but the complex and variable relationships between land use and land cover are still insufficiently understood. Differing assumptions about these relationships have led to significant differences between models of anthropogenic land cover change, a shortcoming with immediate scientific and policy implications for work on global climate. Global climate models thus make use of quite problematic assessments about the subject matter of archaeology and history. In this session, we outline the goals and procedures of LandCover6k and report on preliminary work classifying, compiling, and mapping land use data from several world regions. Archaeology turns out to be a critical discipline for understanding not only the past, but also the present and future.

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  • Documents (11)

  • Anthropogenic land cover change over the last 6000 years: How can we use archaeology to inform global models? (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Jed Kaplan. Andrea Kay. Leanne Phelps.

    Did humans affect global climate before the Industrial Era? While this question is hotly debated, the co-evolution of humans and the natural environment since the last Ice Age had an undisputed role in influencing the development and present state of terrestrial ecosystems, many of which are highly valued today as economic, cultural, and ecological resources. Yet we still have a very incomplete picture of human-environment interactions over the last 21,000 years, both spatially and temporally....

  • Estimating the pre-Columbian population of southwestern Amazonia. (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Umberto Lombardo.

    Estimates of population density in pre-Columbian Amazonia have been based on calculations of the carrying capacity of the environment, generally classified as varzea, terra firme and savannah. These estimates, however, have been criticized because they overlook the fact that i) the Amazonia environment is far more diverse in terms of soils, vegetation and climate than this simplistic classification and ii) pre-Columbians increased, both intentionally and unintentionally, the productivity of the...

  • How many, how few, how long: pre-Columbian population density and human impact in pre-Columbian Amazonia (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Manuel Arroyo-Kalin.

    Assessing the landscape impact of past settlement and subsistence systems in space and in time is essential to reconstructing pre-Columbian land use in the Amazon basin. In this paper we consider archaeological and landscape evidence for past land use by examining the strengths and limitations of archaeological radiocarbon evidence as a proxy for broad demographic patterns in pre-Columbian Amazonia.

  • An Interactive Scenario of Agricultural Intensification and Environmental Evolution: A Case Study at Sanyangzhuang Site (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Zhen Qin. Tristram Kidder. Haiwang Liu.

    Over the last 10,000 years, agriculture has gradually been intensified, and become the globally dominant way of subsistence. However, the relationships between agricultural intensification and environmental evolution are not fully clarified. Deeper understanding of the issue may be gained through research at Sanyangzhuang, a rural settlement site in present Henan Province in central China. Many agriculture features, such as ridge-and-furrow fields, have been recovered in three strata....

  • Land use and Field Ecologies in Southwest China (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Alice Yao.

    This paper complements prevailing studies on prehistoric domestication and agriculture with an eye toward the interrelated problem of land use and food security in south China. In ecologies characterized by monsoonal variability, rugged terrain, and dense vegetation, what are the conditions that challenge or enable the cultivation of a range of staples? Using archaeological, ethnohistorical, and ethnographic data, I examine how extensification of field practices enabled the cultivation of...

  • LandCover6K: Using Archaeology to Improve Climate Models (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Kathleen Morrison.

    This paper introduces LandCover6k, an international collaboration dedicated to reconstructing Holocene land cover (vegetation) and land use on a global scale. Throughout the Holocene, human land use has led to changes in vegetation as well as having other effects on global climate. These effects are typically modeled (anthropogenic land cover change models, ALCC) using limited historical information, with the results of such models used in climate models. Existing ALCC models differ...

  • Landscape Domestication during the Middle Holocene in the Tropics: new data from Southwestern Amazonia (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Eduardo Neves.

    There is good archaeological evidence that the Amazon basin was densely populated during the 2,000 years prior to the beginning of European colonization and that these populations promoted important landscape transformations. However, not much is known about patterns of landscape transformation during the Middle Holocene. This paper brings such data based on ongoing research on two archaeological sites in Southwestern Amazonia: Monte Castelo, a fluvial shellmound and Teotonio, an open air deeply...

  • LandUse6k North America: Report and Implications (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only LuAnn Wandsnider.

    LandUse6k is a consortium of archaeologists, historical geographers and historians engaged in synthesizing land use data for various slices of time, to be used to improve the efficacy of climate models. These efforts recognize the large impact that anthropogenic land cover change has had on past climate and climate change trajectory. We report on efforts to characterize land use through time for North America describing methods and issues. We estimate how these characterizations allow for more...

  • Pastoral Categories for LandCover 6K (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Laura Popova.

    In this talk I will discuss the categories that will be used for the LandCover 6k Project to track pastoral land use over time. These new categories will be discussed in terms of the more traditional categories archaeologist and historians have used to talk about pastoralism. I will give examples of how these new categories can be used to track pastoral land use in Eurasia using archaeological data.

  • Preliminary spatial analysis of the Middle Mumun culture's land-use pattern in southcentral region of Korea (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Ha Beom Kim. Gyoung-Ah Lee.

    This study investigates the land-use pattern of the Middle Mumun culture (c. 29/2800–2400 cal. BP) in south-central region of Korea from a spatial analytic perspective. By employing inter-settlement visibility analysis and geographical variable comparisons, this study explores social and environmental contexts affecting cultural decisions of the Middle Mumun people for their settlement locations. Through our analysis, we find that relationships across the Middle Mumun settlements may have...

  • Six Thousand Years of South Asia: Implications for Climate Modeling. (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Mark Lycett. Andrew Bauer. Mannat Johal. Marco Madella.

    We review the archaeological evidence for land use patterning in South Asia over the past 6,000 years as part of a larger effort of the PAGES-supported Landcover6k and LandUse6k project to reconstruct global land use and land cover data sets for the purpose of improving models of anthropogenic land cover change used by climate scientists. Here, we use archaeological and paleoecological data from our study areas to trace land use shifts from the Southern Neolithic through the Middle or...