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Journal ArticleDOI

Native Americans as active and passive promoters of mast and fruit trees in the eastern USA

01 Nov 2008-The Holocene (SAGE Publications)-Vol. 18, Iss: 7, pp 1123-1137
TL;DR: This article reviewed literature in the fields of anthropology, archaeology, ethnobotany, palynology and ecology to determine the impacts of Native Americans as active and passive promoters of mast (nuts and acorns) and fruit trees prior to European settlement.
Abstract: We reviewed literature in the fields of anthropology, archaeology, ethnobotany, palynology and ecology to try to determine the impacts of Native Americans as active and passive promoters of mast (nuts and acorns) and fruit trees prior to European settlement. Mast was a critical resource for carbohydrates and fat calories and at least 30 tree species and genera were used in the diet of Native Americans, the most important being oak (Quercus), hickory (Carya) and chestnut (Castanea), which dominated much of the eastern forest, and walnut (Juglans) to a lesser extent. Fleshy tree fruits were most accessible in human-disturbed landscapes, and at least 20 fruit- and berry-producing trees were commonly utilized by Native Americans. They regularly used fire and tree girdling as management tools for a multitude of purposes, including land clearing, promotion of favoured mast and fruit trees, vegetation control and pasturage for big-game animals. This latter point also applies to the vast fire-maintained prairie r...

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Journal ArticleDOI
TL;DR: In this paper, the authors summarize fire use in the forests and woodlands of North America and the current state of the practice, and explore challenges associated with the use of prescribed fire.
Abstract: Whether ignited by lightning or by Native Americans, fire once shaped many North American ecosystems. Euro-American settlement and 20th-century fire suppression practices drastically altered historic fire regimes, leading to excessive fuel accumulation and uncharacteristically severe wildfires in some areas and diminished flammability resulting from shifts to more fire-sensitive forest species in others. Prescribed fire is a valuable tool for fuel management and ecosystem restoration, but the practice is fraught with controversy and uncertainty. Here, we summarize fire use in the forests and woodlands of North America and the current state of the practice, and explore challenges associated with the use of prescribed fire. Although new scientific knowledge has reduced barriers to prescribed burning, societal aversion to risk often trumps known, long-term ecological benefits. Broader implementation of prescribed burning and strategic management of wildfires in fire-dependent ecosystems will require improved integration of science, policy, and management, and greater societal acceptance through education and public involvement in land-management issues.

474 citations

Journal ArticleDOI
TL;DR: In this paper, the authors synthesize existing sedimentary charcoal records to reconstruct Holocene fire history at regional, continental and global scales, and compare the two potential controls of burning at these broad scales to assess their relative importance on trends in biomass burning.

311 citations

Journal ArticleDOI
TL;DR: In this paper, the authors investigated whether the decline in global atmospheric CO2 concentration in the late 1500s and early 1600s, which globally lowered surface air temperatures by 0.15∘C, were generated by natural forcing or were a result of the large-scale depopulation of the Americas after European arrival, subsequent land use change and secondary succession.

237 citations


Cites background from "Native Americans as active and pass..."

  • ...forest clearing to support indigenous hunting strategies (Abrams and Nowacki, 2008; Anderson, 2006), based on similar farming...

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  • ...Pre-Columbian land use in the US and Canada varied from largely nomadic hunter-gatherers in the north towards semi-permanent and permanent agriculture further south (Abrams and Nowacki, 2008; Stinchcomb et al., 2011)....

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  • ...Fire management was practised from the Midwest to the east coast (Abrams and Nowacki, 2008)....

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  • ...…European arrival, particularly in Mexico, Central America, Bolivia and the Andes where terraced fields and irrigated agriculture was practised (e.g. Abrams and Nowacki, 2008; Chepstow-Lusty and Jonsson, 2000; Heckenberger et al., 2003; Hunter and Sluyter, 2015; Whitmore and Turner, 1992), and…...

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  • ...varied from largely nomadic hunter-gatherers in the north towards semi-permanent and permanent agriculture further south (Abrams and Nowacki, 2008; Stinchcomb et al., 2011)....

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References
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Journal ArticleDOI
TL;DR: In this paper, the concepts of human carrying capacity and natural capital were used to develop a framework to evaluate each city's ecological footprints and appropriated carrying capacity in the context of urban economics.
Abstract: Ecological footprints and appropriated carrying capacity: what urban economics leaves out uses the concepts of human carrying capacity and natural capital to develop a framework to evaluate each ci...

1,815 citations


"Native Americans as active and pass..." refers background in this paper

  • ...Nevertheless, the European settlement legacy or ecological footprint in the USA is very large (Rees, 1992)....

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Book
01 Jan 1950

1,732 citations

Journal ArticleDOI
TL;DR: In this article, a positive feedback cycle is described whereby microenvironmental conditions (cool, damp, and shaded conditions; less flammable fuel beds) continually improve for shade-tolerant mesophytic species and deteriorate for fire-adapted species.
Abstract: A diverse array of fire-adapted plant communities once covered the eastern United States. European settlement greatly altered fire regimes, often increasing fire occurrence (e.g., in northern hardwoods) or substantially decreasing it (e.g., in tallgrass prairies). Notwithstanding these changes, fire suppression policies, beginning around the 1920s, greatly reduced fire throughout the East, with profound ecological consequences. Fire-maintained open lands converted to closed-canopy forests. As a result of shading, shade-tolerant, fire-sensitive plants began to replace heliophytic (sun-loving), fire-tolerant plants. A positive feedback cycle—which we term “mesophication”—ensued, whereby microenvironmental conditions (cool, damp, and shaded conditions; less flammable fuel beds) continually improve for shade-tolerant mesophytic species and deteriorate for shade-intolerant, fire-adapted species. Plant communities are undergoing rapid compositional and structural changes, some with no ecological antece...

1,079 citations

Journal ArticleDOI
TL;DR: Nowacki et al. as discussed by the authors studied the dominance of oak in presettlement forests and found that oak dominance is more pronounced on mesic rather than on xeric sites, where most oaks are considered early to midsuccessional species.
Abstract: ak (Quercus) represents one of the most dominant species groups in the eastern deciduous forest of North America (Table 1). In certain eastern regions, oak dominance reflects the importance of this genus in presettlement forests (Abrams and Downs 1990, Spurr 1951, Whitney and Davis 1986). Yet, in other regions, the current distribution of oak greatly exceeds that of the original vegetation (Abrams 1986, Howell and Kucera 1956, Nowacki et al. 1990). Thus, the development of oak species has occurred through a variety of ecological pathways and disturbance conditions. The dominance of oak in presettlement forests is particularly interesting because most oaks are considered early to midsuccessional species. Indeed, most recent studies indicate the potential for widespread oak replacement by more shade-tolerant species in mature forests (Christensen 1977, Lorimer 1984, Nowacki et al. 1990). However, this phenomenon may vary with regional and edaphic factors and be more pronounced on mesic rather than on xeric sites (Abrams 1986, Host et al. 1987, McCune and Cottam 1985, Nowacki and Abrams 1991). These observations have led researchers to ask the following questions about oak ecology in eastern

1,004 citations


"Native Americans as active and pass..." refers background in this paper

  • ...Where multiple mast tree species were present, Natives seemed to prefer hickory nuts, based on archaeological evidence (Delcourt et al., 1986)....

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  • ...Natives must have been the principal ignition source as lightning-based ignitions are uncommon in the humid northeast and most other regions of the eastern biome (Stewart, 2002; Lorimer and White, 2003)....

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  • ...If left fallow over extended periods, Natives probably burned areas to prevent woody plant invasion to maintain open grassy habitats for game (especially deer) and ease the future return to agriculture....

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  • ...Since these genera are fire-adapted, they may have benefited from Native American burning in the region and, in the case of chestnut, through active dispersal by Natives (Abrams, 1992; Foster et al., 2002; MacDougall, 2003; Pederson et al., 2005)....

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  • ...Plantations would have served as distinct, long-term markers, helping establish ‘turf’ while providing a readily accessible food source for Natives and their game....

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