How much did indigenous peoples alter the Amazon forest?
Mitchell Power and his fellow collaborators studied the question of whether pre-historic people clearcut the rainforest from the viewpoint of ecologists. Their conclusion is that before Europeans arrived, indigenous peoples did alter the Amazon forest--but primarily along major rivers. Their effects were almost imperceptible in rainforest areas more than a day's walk from a river, according to new research published in the Journal of Biogeography.
This team of international scientists argue that a recent emphasis by researchers on Amazonia as a manufactured landscape overstates the facts. This study has "reversed a decades-long trend of finding an ever-increasing extent and ecological effects of human settlement in pre-Columbian Amazonia," says George Malanson, program director in the National Science Foundation (NSF)'s Division of Environmental Biology, which funded the research.
Credit: Mark Bush