My name is Majoi Nascimento, I just started a new job as a postdoc researcher at the University of Amsterdam working on an ERC project named ALPHA (Assessing Legacies of Past Human Activities in Amazonia with Crystal McMichael). The main focus of ALPHA is to investigate the role of human disturbance and recovery processes that have occurred over the past few millennia in Amazonia, and their effects on the biodiversity and carbon dynamics that are observed there today. To do a good job, it is important that we understand the concepts of disturbance and recovery, but also the processes that underlie forest resilience. That is the reason why we decided to read and discuss this work from Adolf et al. 2020 “Identifying drivers of forest resilience in long-term records from the Neotropics”, published in the journal Biology Letters, during one of our lab meetings.
The next two days were spent in motorized dugouts sitting on our gear bags, with tarps pulled over us. Every now and then the driving rain would relent and we would see macaws and toucans flying across the Aguarico River. We stayed one night in a village that had been abandoned due to recent floods, another with Siona hunters who were preparing their blow darts (for monkeys). There were very few houses along the river and we hardly saw another boat in three days. Then we arrived, well almost. We had turned off the main channel onto the tiny Zancudo river. Little used, this stream was a jumble of fallen trees that the Siona chopped their way through. A large tree just beneath the surface posed a problem that was solved by stripping the bark from Cecropiatrees and laying it inside surface facing up, backing up, revving the engine, and aiming straight for the bark. The slick insides of the Cecropiaallowed the canoes to shoot the trunk and on we went. Then we reached the marsh. When I say ‘marsh’ it was a forest of Montricardia arborescens. This is an aquatic Aroid that grows about 3 m high. The trunks are about 3-5 cm in diameter and is THE favored hangout for caiman and anaconda (I have since learned). No Siona in their right mind gets out of a boat in such a marsh and so we were stuck……so close but yet so far. Our only chance of getting through the marsh was to hop out of the boats and pull them through.
The author pulling a canoe through the marsh at Zancudococha in 1988. Photo: Miriam Steinitz-Kannan.
We had two boats and so the most dispensable members of the team, Paulo de Oliveira and I, were given the job of hauling the boats. A couple of happy hours later we were through the marsh and onto the lake.
Our first jobs were to find somewhere dry enough to camp, unload, set up camp, and survey the lake. Paul Colinvaux the team leader always launched an inflatable and surveyed the lake on first arrival. Meanwhile the rest of us set up camp. About 20 minutes into all this activity there was the unmistakable crack of a shotgun. In a few more minutes the Chief’s sons emerged from the forest with the news that they had shot a large tapir. The tapir fed the group for the next few days, but I ate tuna and a sausage that had turned blue and slimy, unable to reconcile my role in, what to me, was an unfortunate outcome of our petitioning the Siona to bring us to their sacred lake. The coring was more successful than at Cuyabeno in that we recovered 5m of sediment, but it was clearly a young system and wouldn’t answer our research question. This expedition was a disappointment scientifically, but an incredible snapshot along the gradient of Amazonian development.
View from our campsite of an island in Lake Zancudococha (1988). Photo: M. Bush.
The 1988 camp at Zanucudococha was a place of field biology. Chemist Mike Miller worked late into the night on limnology, while field microscopes were used to get an early glimpse of plankton and diatoms. From left to right: Melanie Riedinger-Whitmore, Eduardo Asanza, Haki, Paulo de Oliveira and Paul Colinvaux. Photo: M. Bush.
Mark Bush and I are proud to announce that a tribute to Prof. Daniel Livingston and Prof. Paul Colinvaux has recently been published in Quaternary Research. Dan and Paul were both pioneers of tropical pal(a)eoecology and both died in the spring of 2016 . To mark their passing Mark and I have guest edited ten new papers on palaeoecology drawn from researchers, and regions, of the tropics in which Dan and Paul worked (Bush & Gosling, 2018). We would like to thank Quaternary Research Senior Editor Derek Booth for giving us this opportunity and assisting greatly in the process of compiling the manuscripts. We would also like to thank all to contributing authors for their hard work and dedication to the project. We hope that you will enjoy reading the manuscripts and find them a fitting tribute to the life and work of these two great researchers.
The Llanos de Moxos in Bolivia is an area the size of England that has one of the highest densities of archaeological sites in the Amazon basin. I travelled there for the first time earlier this month for the fourth International Meeting of Amazonian Archaeology. As the airplane crossed from the Andes into the Amazon plains, I could tell this was a very different ‘Amazonia’ compared with the forests that I know from Peru, Ecuador, and western Brazil. The Llanos de Moxos is a seasonally flooded savanna and it was so…open! I immediately realized that the perception of ‘Amazonia’ varies widely among individuals, and I think that is one of the reasons why those of us who study the human history of Amazonia tend to disagree so frequently.
This time you are reading a message from a non-expert in paleoecology. My name is Masha and I will spend the next two years on a very exciting postdoctoral fellowship funded by NWO (Dutch National Science Foundation) under their Rubicon scheme in close collaboration with William Gosling (University of Amsterdam).
I am delighted to report that I have recently been appointed as an Associate Editor for the journal Vegetation History & Archaeobotany (VHA). The journals scope is global and covers Quaternary environmental and climatic change, with a specific focus on the Holocene and pre-historic human impacts on landscapes; often linking palaeoecological and archaeological research. My remit with VHA is to provide expertise on tropical, and in particular South American, studies. Recent articles in VHA with a South American focus include:
Assessing the influence of glacial-interglacial climate changes on the dry forest vegetation along the southern edge of Amazonia (Whitney et al., 2014),
I hope that over the next few years we can publish some more exciting articles on the tropics in VHA and I would therefore like to encourage you to submit interesting high quality original research, reviews, or short articles for our consideration.
To find out more about the journal and submit an article click here.
Goldberg, A., Mychajliw, A.M. & Hadly, E.A. (2016) Post-invasion demography of prehistoric humans in South America. Nature advance online publication. doi: 10.1038/nature17176
Baker, A.G., Cornelissen, P., Bhagwat, S.A., Vera, F.W.M. & Willis, K.J. (2016) Quantification of population sizes of large herbivores and their long-term functional role in ecosystems using dung fungal spores. Methods in Ecology and Evolution online. doi: 10.1111/2041-210X.12580
Matthews-Bird, F., Brooks, S.J., Holden, P.B., Montoya, E. & Gosling, W.D. (2016) Inferring late-Holocene climate in the Ecuadorian Andes using a chironomid-based temperature inference model. Climate of the Past 12, 1263-1280. DOI: 10.5194/cp-12-1263-2016
New literature review published open access:
Flantua, S.G.A., Hooghiemstra, H., Vuille, M., Behling, H., Carson, J.F., Gosling, W.D., Hoyos, I., Ledru, M.P., Montoya, E., Mayle, F., Maldonado, A., Rull, V., Tonello, M.S., Whitney, B.S. & Gonzalez-Arango, C. (2016) Climate variability and human impact in South America during the last 2000 years: Synthesis and perspectives from pollen records. Climate of the Past 12, 483-523. doi: 10.5194/cp-12-483-2016
Online, open access:
McMichael, C., Piperno, D., Neves, E., Bush, M., Almeida, F. & Mongelo, G. (2015) Phytolith assemblages along a gradient of ancient human disturbance in western Amazonia. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution 3.DOI: 10.3389/fevo.2015.00141