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Four thousand years of environmental change and human activity in the Cochabamba Basin, Bolivia

Williams, Joseph J.; Gosling, William D.; Coe, Angela L.; Brooks, Stephen J. and Gulliver, Pauline (2011). Four thousand years of environmental change and human activity in the Cochabamba Basin, Bolivia. Quaternary Research, 76(1) pp. 58–68.

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The Cochabamba Basin (Bolivia) is on the ancient road network connecting Andean and lowland areas. Little is known about the longevity of this trade route or how people responded to past environmental changes. The eastern end of the Cochabamba valley system constricts at the Vacas Lake District, constraining the road network and providing an ideal location in which to examine past human–environmental interactions. Multi-proxy analysis of sediment from Lake Challacaba has allowed a c. 4000 year environmental history to be reconstructed. Fluctuations in drought tolerant pollen taxa and calcium carbonate indicate two periods of reduced moisture availability (c. 4000–3370 and c. 2190–1020 cal yr BP) compared to adjacent wetter episodes (c. 3370–2190 and c. 1020 cal yr BP–present). The moisture fluctuations broadly correlate to El Niño/Southern Oscillation variations reported elsewhere. High charcoal abundance from c. 4000 to 2000 yr ago indicates continuous use of the ancient road network. A decline in charcoal and an increase in dung fungus (Sporormiella) c. 1340–1210 cal yr BP, suggests that cultural changes were a major factor in shaping the modern landscape. Despite undisputable impacts of human populations on the Polylepis woodlands today, we see no evidence of woodland clearance in the Challacaba record.

Item Type: Journal Item
Copyright Holders: 2011 University of Washington. Published by Elsevier Inc.
ISSN: 0033-5894
Project Funding Details:
Funded Project NameProject IDFunding Body
Human-climate impacts on Polylepis woodlands in the Andes.NE/F008082/1NERC (Natural Environment Research Council)
Radiocarbon facility support1287.0408NERC (Natural Environment Research Council)
Radiocarbon facility support1463.0410NERC (Natural Environment Research Council)
Not Set8105-06National Geographic Committee for Research and Exploration
Keywords: charcoal; El Niño/Southern Oscillation; fire; fossil pollen; holocene; human impact; Inca; Polylepis; Sporormiella; Tiwanaku
Academic Unit/School: Faculty of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) > Environment, Earth and Ecosystem Sciences
Faculty of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM)
Research Group: OpenSpace Research Centre (OSRC)
Related URLs:
Item ID: 28684
Depositing User: Joseph Williams
Date Deposited: 28 Apr 2011 13:55
Last Modified: 07 Dec 2018 09:53
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