Measuring Human Impacts on Islands Relative to Size


Archaeological research on islands worldwide demonstrates that initial colonists exerted substantial environmental impacts on local ecologies, ranging from the extirpation of native species to landscape modification. The degree of impact was dependent on a host of variables, including the kinds and number of introduced plant and animal species, the remoteness of settled islands, and extent of interaction between discrete landmasses. Yet, there is still much to learn about the consequences of human impact on different islands through time. Here we summarize current knowledge and analyze how ancient human impacts differentially affected islands of varying sizes across the world’s major island regions of the Pacific, Caribbean, and Mediterranean. Using principles derived from island biogeography, we compiled a database of archaeological instances of impact that include: 1) extinction and extirpation rates of native biota; 2) introductions of exotic species; 3) changes in floral and faunal biodiversity; 4) cases of landscape change directly related to human influence; and 5) the triggering of trophic cascades. Our results suggest that, while broad patterns are evident, the complex, localized interplay between humans and island ecosystems is less dependent on purely physiographic factors (here, island size) and more dependent on specific cultural trajectories of regional populations.

Cite this Record

Measuring Human Impacts on Islands Relative to Size. John O'Connor, Scott Fitzpatrick, Todd Braje, Matthew Napolitano, Thomas Leppard. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 430800)


Geographic Keywords

Spatial Coverage

min long: 111.973; min lat: -52.052 ; max long: -87.715; max lat: 53.331 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 14487