Ecology and Human Habitation of Andean Forests

Author(s): Kenneth Young

Year: 2018


People have altered the naturally forested areas of the tropical Andes for natural resources and as places for settlements. The forests collectively represent a global biodiversity hotspot, with many unique species. Environmental gradients are abrupt, with dramatic changes in temperature regimes with altitude, but also with switches in humidity from dry to pluvial depending on exposure to prevailing winds. The steep environmental gradients create dispersal barriers to plants and animals, resulting in highly restricted distributions. Along the >3000 m altitudinal gradient, there are zones where cooling air can form persistent fogs, leading to cloud forests that have moisture-dependent species and low stature trees, which nevertheless provide important ecosystem services. The relatively cool temperatures and steep slopes at higher elevations often discourage human colonization, but some sites include archaeological sites, suggesting that current land use may not be prescriptive of the past. Nonexclusive factors may include past climate change, enclaves with drier microenvironments, transhumance, and use of multiple ecological zones. Given a long history of Andean landscapes with people, it is important to put conservation and sustainability goals into a larger context, including data on the timing and locations of settlements, and conceptual models of human influences on Andean forests.

Cite this Record

Ecology and Human Habitation of Andean Forests. Kenneth Young. Presented at The 82nd Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Washington, DC. 2018 ( tDAR id: 444199)

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Spatial Coverage

min long: -82.441; min lat: -56.17 ; max long: -64.863; max lat: 16.636 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 20279