#1 Native Americans Lose "Green" Image.04-15-2010, 01:46 PMStalagmite reveals carbon footprint of early Native Americans
Study finds new evidence of pre-colonial land use patterns
ATHENS, Ohio (April 15, 2010) – A new study led by Ohio University scientists suggests that early Native Americans left a bigger carbon footprint than previously thought, providing more evidence that humans impacted global climate long before the modern industrial era.
Chemical analysis of a stalagmite found in the mountainous Buckeye Creek basin of West Virginia suggests that native people contributed a significant level of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere through land use practices. The early Native Americans burned trees to actively manage the forests to yield the nuts and fruit that were a large part of their diets.
“They had achieved a pretty sophisticated level of living that I don’t think people have fully appreciated,” said Gregory Springer, an associate professor of geological sciences at Ohio University and lead author of the study, which was published a recent issue of the journal The Holocene. “They were very advanced, and they knew how to get the most out of the forests and landscapes they lived in. This was all across North America, not just a few locations.”
Initially, Springer and research collaborators from University of Texas at Arlington and University of Minnesota were studying historic drought cycles in North America using carbon isotopes in stalagmites. To their surprise, the carbon record contained evidence of a major change in the local ecosystem beginning at 100 B.C. This intrigued the team because an archeological excavation in a nearby cave had yielded evidence of a Native American community there 2,000 years ago.
Springer recruited two Ohio University graduate students to examine stream sediments, and with the help of Harold Rowe of University of Texas at Arlington, the team found very high levels of charcoal beginning 2,000 years ago, as well as a carbon isotope history similar to the stalagmite.
This evidence suggests that Native Americans significantly altered the local ecosystem by clearing and burning forests, probably to make fields and enhance the growth of nut trees, Springer said.
This picture conflicts with the popular notion that early Native Americans had little impact on North American landscapes. They were better land stewards than the European colonialists who followed, he said, but they apparently cleared more land and burned more forest than previously thought.
04-15-2010, 02:17 PM
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04-16-2010, 12:18 AM
A lot of people are unaware of the fact that almost all Indian cultures living in or near "old growth forests" burned those suckers to the ground often. New growth is the best habitat for things any normal person would want to eat: animal or veggie. Old growth forests have particular plants and animals that favor that environment but they are not "diverse" ecologically and they are poor in terms of soil health, species habitat, and usefulness.
Many Rocky Mountain states are now experiencing deforestation (temporary) due to pine beetle. Before 1900 or somewhat later, both natural lightening strikes and Native burning killed/reproduced the Lodge Pole pine at regular intervals. At this point in time many pines are at their natural life limit and they are very susceptible to insect invasion and disease - just as any very old animal would be.
Burning allows many mountain plants to reproduce and thrive. It also kills large insect populations. Burned land provides almost instant habitat for numerous plants and animals.
The other thing many people don't know is that the Great Plains are treeless primarily because of the buffalo. Buffs like open plains and they kill any large shrubs or saplings by trampling them. Back in the day, the Great Plains were groomed by buffs. Now that they are gone, many shrubs and trees are starting to reappear. ;)
04-16-2010, 10:41 AM
But...but...but, the early native Americans, whose land was stolen by the evil white man, lived in harmony with nature - the land and the forests and the creatures.
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04-16-2010, 01:09 PM
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Where people got the idea that American Indians lived in harmony with the enviroment, I'll never know. They knew how to use the land and enviroment to their advantage and changed, cleared and burned it as they needed it.
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