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Human activity has had a significant impact on the environment thousands of years ago. The new study challenges the previous assumption that large-scale human-driven environmental change is seen as a relatively recent phenomenon.

Human activity has had a significant impact on the environment thousands of years ago. The new study challenges the previous assumption that large-scale human-driven environmental change is seen as a relatively recent phenomenon.

The global history of land use was elucidated by a study involving more than 250 archeologists from around the world. This is the first worldwide survey of the long-term history of land use based on archaeological research.

Research shows that the surface of our planet was already significantly shaped 3,000 years ago by the land use of hunter-gatherers, farmers and stockbreeders. This is much earlier than natural modeling of the history of land use has predicted.

The empirical assessment of archaeologists was based on a period of time that began 10,000 years ago and ended in the 1850s.

The emergence of productive livelihoods accelerated man-made environmental impacts, but the extent, timing, and effects of these early environmental changes have not been known on a global scale.

“In traditional small communities, these changes to the environment have usually been small from the beginning, but the effects have increased and multiplied over time,” says postdoctoral researcher Oula Seitsonen from the University of Oulu.

As examples of the effects, Seitsonen mentions the clearing of forests and other vegetation by burning or felling, which opened up the landscape and provided birch lands, good hunting terrain and settlements. The increase in agriculture impoverished the soil and the vegetation was depleted due to the grazing of livestock.

A study of global land use history highlights the long history of global change. The review also shows significant gaps in the quantity and quality of archaeological research and information on a global scale. Participants’ expertise peaked at about 2,000 years old and focused on richer and traditionally well-explored areas. This highlights the need for research in poorer areas in the future to fill gaps.

Oula Seitsonen is researching early animal husbandry in the Domestication in Action project funded by the Academy of Finland and the European Research Council. Seitsonen works especially on issues related to early reindeer husbandry in Fennoscandia, but also studies the traces of prehistoric livestock farmers in Mongolia and East Africa.

Article source: https://www.oulu.fi/yliopisto/ymparistonmuutos

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