African insights

March 30, 2023
WDG

Plant Ecology & Diversity

Having recently traveled to South Africa as part of the Landscape Dynamics field course run by our graduate school, and to be thinking again about trying to obtain funding to further research in Africa, I thought it might be fun to turn to the journals in which I have an editorial hand (Plant Ecology & Diversity, Vegetation History & Archaeobotany, and The Holocene) and see what new work was coming out on African ecosystem dynamics. From each of these journals I have selected two recent papers to highlight here.

The papers come from across the continent and all have a component of the ecology of the past, but they range in focus from developing methods to extract new insights about past ecological change (Le Moyne et al., 2023) through to the application of our understanding of past ecosystems to the management of conservation areas (Wilkinson et al., 2022).

Vegetation History & Archaeobotany

The study by Le Moyne et al. (2023) examined modern reference material of nine grass species to determine how they might be better identified in the archaeological and palaeoecological record from the phytoliths they produce. Three of the studies use different lines of evidence of past ecological dynamics to explore change over the last few thousands of years.

  • Champion et al. (2023) shed light on past agricultural practices in western Africa (Nigeria) through the examination of macro-botanical evidence from 50 archaeological sites and dating back c. 3500 years, hypothesizing a new route for the spread of pearl millet out of the central Sahara into the central Nigerian savannahs.
  • Prader et al. (2023) present a c. 4000 year geochemical, palynological and and charcoal record from Table Mountain National Park in South Africa, showing changes in the abundance of fynbos and forest plants and how this was modified by people.
  • Hildebrand et al. (2022) collated multiple lines of evidence of past environmental change from eastern Africa to assess changes in human activity during and after the African Humid Period (15,000-5000 years ago), highlighting the complex relationship between changes in human resource acquisition practice (fishing, hunting, gathering, and pastoralism) and environmental change.

The longest timescale perspective is provided by Milton et al. (2022) who investigated plant speciation in the Namib Desert. They combined a phylogenetic, morphometric and experimental genetic approaches to explore the evolutionary history of Senecio flavus and S. engerianus and produce palaeo-distribution models. From these data they suggest that the wider ranged species (S. flavus) is in fact derived from the smaller ranged parent (S. engerianus) and that this separation was caused by aridification during the Pleistocene.

The final paper, Wilkinson et al. (2022), take evidence for past abundances of elephants and compare them with the abundances in national parks today. They argue that modern elephant densities in national parks could be higher than the historical levels and that this could be detrimental to the flora and other fauna in the parks.

References

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Typha as a wetland food resource: evidence from the Tianluoshan site, Lower Yangtze Region, China

June 3, 2019
WDG

Zhang, Y., van Geel, B., Gosling, W.D., Sun, G., Qin, L. & Wu, X. (2019) Typha as a wetland food resource: evidence from the Tianluoshan site, Lower Yangtze Region, China. Vegetation History and Archaeobotany. DOI: 10.1007/s00334-019-00735-4

Evidence of early cultivation around the globe

October 24, 2017
WDG

Two recent articles published in the journal Vegetation History & Archaeobotany, which caught my attention as an Associate Editor, explore early cultivation in Argentina and Czech Republic:

  • Lopez (2017) examine macro-botanical remains from 16 archaeological sites in Argentina and concludes that the transition from foraging to cultivation commenced around 1000 years ago.
  • Dreslerová et al. (2017) looked an charred macrofossil remains from 84 archaeological sites in the Czech Republic to think about how early farmers selected the crops they grew.

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Fields and feasts

July 28, 2017
WDG

If you have exciting new research on past ecological change similar to this please consider submitting it for consideration to be published in Vegetation History & Archaeobotany.

If you have exciting new research on past ecological change please consider submitting it to Vegetation History & Archaeobotany.

Two articles recently published on-line in the journal Vegetation History & Archaebotany (of which I am an Associate Editor) recently caught my attention.These explore:

For more detailed thoughts on these papers read on…

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Volcanic, climatic and human ecosystem modification

May 8, 2017
WDG

My second pair articles from Vegetation History & Archaeobotany that I would like to highlight look at the impacts of volcanoes and climate on vegetation change. Specifically these explore:

For more detailed thoughts on these papers read on…

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Vegetation History & Archaeobotany

February 12, 2017
WDG

vhaI 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:

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.

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