Research Seminar #15: “Anthropogenic Impact on Columbian and Ecuadorian ecosystems” by Henry Hooghiemstra

It was pollen diagrams galore on Friday when paleo-ecologist Professor Henry Hooghiemstra came to talk to us about Anthropogenic Impact on Columbian and Ecuadorian ecosystems. In a fascinating talk Hooghiemstra took us to many ecological zones of Columbia and Ecuador, from the high Andes to the savannah and tracked the human impact on these landscapes.

Deforestation in the Andes (credit: H. Hooghiemstra)

Deforestation of high altitudes in the Andes (credit: H. Hooghiemstra)

In the Tairona culture in Sierra Nevada he suggested forest clearing and agriculture replaced by the recovering forest after human activity in the area ceased. The Zenu culture in the lower Magdalenian Valley produced thousands of canals for irrigation and lived on elevated land between these canals. In the Bogota high plains of the Andes around 2500BP a more intensive agriculture replaced the hunting camps and small scale agriculture that had come before, bringing with it the development of archaeological fields and the cultivation of wet crops. These periods of forest clearing, agriculture and wet cultures were all shown by the increase and decrease of vegetations as shown in the pollen diagrams and chart human impact on the environment in this region.

Hooghiemstra also spoke about a collaboration with modellers to chart the deforestation of the high-altitude landscapes of the Ecuadorian Andes, by creating plant functional types to define biomes to describe ecological zones. He expressed the need for more collaborations with archaeologists in the future to put context to the pollen data.

Leave a Reply