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Human occupation and ecosystem change on Upolu (Samoa) during the Holocene

Human occupation and ecosystem change on Upolu (Samoa) during the Holocene
Human occupation and ecosystem change on Upolu (Samoa) during the Holocene
Aim: To track the peopling of the South Pacific and assess their impact on terrestrial
and aquatic ecosystems

Location: Upolu, Samoa

Methods: A sedimentary record covering the last c. 10,500 years was recovered from the volcanic crater that contains Lake Lanoto’o near the centre of Upolu Island. Information on past ecological change was obtained from microscopic and macroscopic remains extracted from the sediments: charcoal (fire history), pollen/spores and plant remains (vegetation history), and lake status (algae/cyanobacteria). Information on the depositional environment and climate was obtained from geochemical and sedimentary analysis: loss-on-ignition (sediment composition), cryptotephras (volcanic eruptions), and precipitation regime (Ti/inc). The environmental history developed was compared with the archaeological record from the region.

Results: Charcoal material was found in the Lake Lanoto’o sediments at higher abundances and more frequently in samples from the period after the first archaeological evidence of people on Upolu (c. 2900-2700 years ago). No abrupt shift is recognised in the vegetation or aquatic ecosystem assemblages coincident with the arrival of people on the island.

Main conclusions: Macrocharcoal is demonstrated to be an effective proxy for detecting human occupation of Upolu around 2800 years ago. The immediate impact of these settlers on the vegetation seems to have been minimal, however, a subsequent opening up of the landscape is suggested through the gradual increase in ferns. The absence of any significant change in the aquatic community associated with, or after, the arrival of people on the islands suggests that humans rarely visited the lake. We suggest that on Upolu a simple model of decreasing human impact away from coastal areas is applicable.
Pacific, Polynesia, algae, aquatic, charcoal, cyanobacteria, fire, pollen, terrestrial, vegetation
0305-0270
600-614
Gosling, William D.
75de50b1-a15e-4dda-8d84-0c14b8ab9a2d
Sear, David
ccd892ab-a93d-4073-a11c-b8bca42ecfd3
Hassall, Jonathan
17b719cf-5b7b-496a-8bf7-96c57618baca
Langdon, Peter
95b97671-f9fe-4884-aca6-9aa3cd1a6d7f
Bönnen, Mick N.T.
f1f541c3-36e3-494c-9c1a-5be60460521c
Driessen, Tessa D.
55930c62-3f40-4ea5-a148-a2ffeee6509b
Kemenade, Zoë R. van
f033e0a8-6f2a-428d-9e33-db46fa1c37f7
Noort, Kevin
5a12a0d1-c24f-45e0-92a7-58b348ffd0df
Leng, Melanie J.
eb4c9434-48da-4913-bd6b-025f8a02ea45
Croudace, Ian W.
37092641-3f3a-460a-b12f-0ada28f3de12
Bourne, Anna J.
cfe0b417-c88b-4fcf-ad25-ca38310d2232
McMichael, Crystal N.H.
9165af5f-82ae-4700-adf1-dea2606f4e5d
Gosling, William D.
75de50b1-a15e-4dda-8d84-0c14b8ab9a2d
Sear, David
ccd892ab-a93d-4073-a11c-b8bca42ecfd3
Hassall, Jonathan
17b719cf-5b7b-496a-8bf7-96c57618baca
Langdon, Peter
95b97671-f9fe-4884-aca6-9aa3cd1a6d7f
Bönnen, Mick N.T.
f1f541c3-36e3-494c-9c1a-5be60460521c
Driessen, Tessa D.
55930c62-3f40-4ea5-a148-a2ffeee6509b
Kemenade, Zoë R. van
f033e0a8-6f2a-428d-9e33-db46fa1c37f7
Noort, Kevin
5a12a0d1-c24f-45e0-92a7-58b348ffd0df
Leng, Melanie J.
eb4c9434-48da-4913-bd6b-025f8a02ea45
Croudace, Ian W.
37092641-3f3a-460a-b12f-0ada28f3de12
Bourne, Anna J.
cfe0b417-c88b-4fcf-ad25-ca38310d2232
McMichael, Crystal N.H.
9165af5f-82ae-4700-adf1-dea2606f4e5d

Gosling, William D., Sear, David, Hassall, Jonathan, Langdon, Peter, Bönnen, Mick N.T., Driessen, Tessa D., Kemenade, Zoë R. van, Noort, Kevin, Leng, Melanie J., Croudace, Ian W., Bourne, Anna J. and McMichael, Crystal N.H. (2020) Human occupation and ecosystem change on Upolu (Samoa) during the Holocene. Journal of Biogeography, 47 (3), 600-614. (doi:10.1111/jbi.13783).

Record type: Article

Abstract

Aim: To track the peopling of the South Pacific and assess their impact on terrestrial
and aquatic ecosystems

Location: Upolu, Samoa

Methods: A sedimentary record covering the last c. 10,500 years was recovered from the volcanic crater that contains Lake Lanoto’o near the centre of Upolu Island. Information on past ecological change was obtained from microscopic and macroscopic remains extracted from the sediments: charcoal (fire history), pollen/spores and plant remains (vegetation history), and lake status (algae/cyanobacteria). Information on the depositional environment and climate was obtained from geochemical and sedimentary analysis: loss-on-ignition (sediment composition), cryptotephras (volcanic eruptions), and precipitation regime (Ti/inc). The environmental history developed was compared with the archaeological record from the region.

Results: Charcoal material was found in the Lake Lanoto’o sediments at higher abundances and more frequently in samples from the period after the first archaeological evidence of people on Upolu (c. 2900-2700 years ago). No abrupt shift is recognised in the vegetation or aquatic ecosystem assemblages coincident with the arrival of people on the island.

Main conclusions: Macrocharcoal is demonstrated to be an effective proxy for detecting human occupation of Upolu around 2800 years ago. The immediate impact of these settlers on the vegetation seems to have been minimal, however, a subsequent opening up of the landscape is suggested through the gradual increase in ferns. The absence of any significant change in the aquatic community associated with, or after, the arrival of people on the islands suggests that humans rarely visited the lake. We suggest that on Upolu a simple model of decreasing human impact away from coastal areas is applicable.

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Gosling et al accepted - Accepted Manuscript
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More information

Accepted/In Press date: 30 October 2019
e-pub ahead of print date: 20 January 2020
Keywords: Pacific, Polynesia, algae, aquatic, charcoal, cyanobacteria, fire, pollen, terrestrial, vegetation

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 435783
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/435783
ISSN: 0305-0270
PURE UUID: a869e5a3-1f12-41fd-b077-31809e64d500
ORCID for David Sear: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0003-0191-6179
ORCID for Peter Langdon: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0003-2724-2643

Catalogue record

Date deposited: 20 Nov 2019 17:30
Last modified: 26 Nov 2021 05:55

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Contributors

Author: William D. Gosling
Author: David Sear ORCID iD
Author: Jonathan Hassall
Author: Peter Langdon ORCID iD
Author: Mick N.T. Bönnen
Author: Tessa D. Driessen
Author: Zoë R. van Kemenade
Author: Kevin Noort
Author: Melanie J. Leng
Author: Ian W. Croudace
Author: Anna J. Bourne
Author: Crystal N.H. McMichael

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