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Exploring the Ecological History of a Tropical Agroforestry Landscape Using Fossil Pollen and Charcoal Analysis from Four Sites in Western Ghats, India

Nogué, Sandra; Tovar, Carolina; Bhagwat, Shonil A.; Finsinger, Walter and Willis, Kathy J. (2017). Exploring the Ecological History of a Tropical Agroforestry Landscape Using Fossil Pollen and Charcoal Analysis from Four Sites in Western Ghats, India. Ecosystems (Early Access).

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Contrary to expectations, some human-modified landscapes are considered to sustain both human activities and biodiversity over the long-term. Agroforestry systems are among these landscapes where crops are planted under native shade trees. In this context, ancient agroforestry systems can provide insight into how farmers managed the landscape over time. Such insight can help to quantify the extent to which tropical forests (especially habitat-specialist trees) are responding to local and landscape-level management. Here, we extracted fossil pollen (indicator of past vegetation changes) and macroscopic charcoal (indicator of biomass burning) from four forest hollows’ sedimentary sequences in an ancient agroforestry system in Western Ghats, India. We used a mixed-modelling approach and a principal components analysis (PCA) to determine past trajectories of forest change and species composition dynamics for the last 900 years. In addition, we reconstructed the long-term forest canopy dynamics and examined the persistence of habitat-specialist trees over time. Our results show that the four sites diverged to a surprising degree in both taxa composition and dynamics. However, despite these differences, forest has persisted over 900 years under agricultural activities within agroforestry systems. This long-term analysis highlights the importance of different land-use legacies as a framework to increase the effectiveness of management across tropical agricultural lands.

Item Type: Journal Item
Copyright Holders: 2017 The Authors
ISSN: 1435-0629
Project Funding Details:
Funded Project NameProject IDFunding Body
Not SetF/08 773/EThe Leverhulme Trust
Not SetNot SetBritish Ecological Society
VISTA programme6158Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters
Keywords: agroforestry; charcoal; ecological history; fossil pollen; India; mixed-modelling; tropical forest
Academic Unit/School: Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS) > Politics, Philosophy, Economics, Development, Geography
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS)
Research Group: OpenSpace Research Centre (OSRC)
International Development & Inclusive Innovation
Item ID: 49989
Depositing User: Shonil Bhagwat
Date Deposited: 07 Jul 2017 13:27
Last Modified: 11 Jan 2018 16:33
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