Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) annual international conference – 2013

Palaeo-people at the RGS-IBG meeting plotting future papers and grants.
Palaeo-people at the RGS-IBG meeting plotting future papers and grants. Left-right: Encarni Montoya, Joe Williams, Hayley Keen and Frazer Bird.

RGS – IBG Annul International Conference 2013
27th – 30th August, London

Yesterday (29th August) four members of the Palaeoenvironmental Change Research Group (PCRG) went down to London for the third day of the Royal Geographical Society with IBG (RGS – IBG) international conference for a day of informative talks. Two of the morning sessions were of particular interest to us with the sessions entitled ‘Human – environment interactions in the Neotropics: historical impact to current challenges’ organised by John Carson, Lizzy Rushton and Sarah Metcalfe.

The two sessions contained a total of ten highly interesting talks, including contributions from PCRG members, one of which was presented by William Gosling; who presented Bryan Valencia’s doctoral work on the human impact in the high Andes examining how  vegetation histories from three different lakes diverge during the Holocene in relation to the scale of human occupation. Joe Williams also presented a talk, which looked at ecosystem services through time and how access to resouces set the pace for pre-Hispanic societal development in the central Andes (recently published as Gosling & Williams, 2013). Both of the talks were well received by the audience with many thought-provoking questions being asked. The other talks given throughout the morning presented some excellent tropical research ranging from natural forest dynamics and anthropogenic degradation with a palaeoecological view from the Andes on current and future challenges (presented by Juan Carlos Berrio on behalf of Henry Hooghiemstra and others) through to an impromptu talk on the effect of mahogany logging on the local vegetation in Lamanai, Belize (presented by Elizabeth Rushton who was filling in for an absentee speaker).

The wide diversity of talks presented throughout the morning led to some fascinating scientific discussion, both in the questions and also later on in the day. The key message from the session seemed to be that:

  1. people have been in the Neotropics for a long time (at least 14,000 years) and there is evidence of considerable impact on ecosystems for at least the last 6000 years, but
  2. the impact of those people on the landscape has been highly spatially variable. 

The sessions were well attended my members of the tropical palaeoecology and arcaheology community and a very informative day was had by everyone who attended. There was general agreement that further work is required to resolve the spatial and temporal impacts of people in the Neotropics.

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