Amazon rainforest may have been a savannah just 2,000 years ago
By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
7/9/2014 (2 years ago)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
Researchers have recently revealed that parts of the immense Amazon rainforest may have been grassland until just about 2,000 years ago, citing that a shift to a wetter climate may have been the culprit.
As little as 2,000 years ago, the parts of the Amazon rainforest might have actually been savannah, new evidence suggests.
LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The study, which challenges the widely held belief that the world's biggest tropical forest is older than 2,000 years.
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The arrival of European diseases brought by Columbus as he made his way to the New World in 1492 may have been part of the process that first grew the forest. These diseases killed off many of the indigenous population that farmed the region, keeping the spread of the forest at bay, reported scientists in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
"The dominant ecosystem was more like a savannah than the rainforest we see today," wrote the study's lead author, John Carson of the University of Reading in England.
The scientists conducting the study looked at man-made earthworks that were recently uncovered by logging in Bolivia, which includes ditches up to about 1,100 years long and up to three meters deep and four meters wide.
They also found large amounts of grass pollen in ancient sediments of nearby lakes, and evidence of maize farming, evidence that the area was a savannah that was utilized for farming.
Traditionally, the Amazon has been seen as a pristine, dense rainforest, populated by tribal hunter-gatherers, untouched four many thousands of years. Recent studies have suggested that indigenous peoples did live in heavy forested areas, but where capable of clearing vast tracks of land, and that the forest simply didn't exist in some regions.
These findings do suggest that these ancient inhabitants were not rainforest dwelling hunter-gatherers or large-scale clearers, but farmers that did not have to fight the thick forest.
Carson suggests that perhaps a fifth of the southern Amazon basin may have been savannah until the climate shift, leaving the majority heavily forested.
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