When did the Anthropocene begin? The co-evolution of global terrestrial ecosystems and human societies over the last 21,000 years

Mon, Jul 20, 10:30 am
Location: 
325 Leon Johnson Hall MSU
Speaker Name: 
Dr. Jed O. Kaplan
Institute of Earth Surface Dynamics
University of Lausanne
Lausanne
Switzerland

Did humans affect global climate over the before the Industrial Era? While this question is hotly debated, the co-evolution of humans and the natural environment over the last 11,700 years had an undisputed role in influencing the development and present state of terrestrial ecosystems, many of which are highly valued today as economic, cultural, and ecological resources. Yet we still have a very incomplete picture of human-environment interactions over the Holocene, both spatially and temporally. In order to address this problem, we combined a global dynamic vegetation model with a new model of preindustrial anthropogenic land cover change. We drive this integrated model with paleoclimate from GCM scenarios, a new synthesis of demographic, technological, and economic development over preindustrial time, and a database of historical urbanization covering the last 8000 years. We simulate global land cover and human land use change, fire, soil erosion, and emissions of CO2 and methane (CH4) from 11,700 years before present to AD 1850. Our model results show that while climate and tectonics controlled global land cover in the early Holocene, by the early Iron Age (1000 BC), humans in Europe, East Asia, and Mesoamerica had a larger influence than natural processes on the landscape.

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