Thursday, October 3, 2019
Title: Reconstructing land use and global environmental change in the Holocene
Abstract: Deforestation, irrigation, and agricultural production each impact the flow of water and energy between the land and the atmosphere in complex, interacting ways. Understanding the timing and extent of these impacts over the past 10,000 years is critical for placing contemporary climate change in a long-term context. To this end, climate scientists have developed a new generation of climate model capable of simulating these dynamic human impacts. However, generating global reconstructions of population, land use, and land cover to drive these simulations is difficult -- paleoclimatologists instead rely instead on static, coarse-resolution estimates derived from present-day conditions. Archaeology has much to contribute to this effort. Here, I present the results of a massively collaborative effort to synthesize global archaeological knowledge of the past 10,000 years of human land use. Our collective archaeological knowledge suggests that humans modified the global environment far earlier and more extensively than previously thought. These findings lay the groundwork for a new archaeological hindcasting paradigm that leverages diverse archaeological data to generate dynamic population and land-use maps for use in long-term global change modeling.