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Human impact and ecological changes during prehistoric settlement on the Canary Islands

Human impact and ecological changes during prehistoric settlement on the Canary Islands
Human impact and ecological changes during prehistoric settlement on the Canary Islands
Oceanic islands remained free of humans until relatively recent times. On contact, humans encountered pristine environments with unique ecosystems and species highly vulnerable to novel impacts. In the course of rendering an island habitable, the new settlers transformed it through fire, deforestation, hunting and introduction of pests and weeds. The result, as described for many oceanic islands globally, has been a catastrophe for biodiversity. Here we present the case of the Canary Islands, an Atlantic archipelago renowned for its exceptional biodiversity, and show that these islands have been no exception to the general rule. We review the archaeological, palaeoecological, palaeontological and ecological literature for the archipelago and discuss the ecological consequences – in particular habitat transformation and biodiversity loss – of human settlement. In contrast to previous views that prehistoric humans had only limited impacts on these islands, we show that vegetation change, increased fire, soil erosion, species introductions and extinctions follow the familiar oceanic pattern. Timing of human settlement of the Canary Islands has been controversial, with revised archaeological dates suggesting a relatively late arrival at the beginning of the Common Era, while palaeoecological and palaeontological evidence favours a presence several centuries earlier. While the matter is still not settled, we suggest that settlement sometime between 2400 and 2000 cal years BP is a possibility.
Extinction, Holocene, Introduced species, North Atlantic, Oceanic islands, Paleogeography, Prehistoric human impact, Vegetation dynamics
0277-3791
De Nascimento, Lea
5bb40153-b7a1-495e-b0ac-302307b930b7
Nogué, Sandra
5b464cff-a158-481f-8b7f-647c93d7a034
Naranjo-Cigala, Agustín
e1ec4194-ea11-4a53-859f-38a4f1dc91e3
Criado, Constantino
f5474f82-e433-41fc-841f-4e2df783be79
Mcglone, Matt
b84ad1a5-3a14-4f14-a70f-9ee3e386cb48
Fernández-Palacios, Enrique
b84b56d2-a676-415f-a5c3-f8ddbc93b672
Fernández-Palacios, José María
94464d8e-4695-4942-af72-1fd91d0b1624
De Nascimento, Lea
5bb40153-b7a1-495e-b0ac-302307b930b7
Nogué, Sandra
5b464cff-a158-481f-8b7f-647c93d7a034
Naranjo-Cigala, Agustín
e1ec4194-ea11-4a53-859f-38a4f1dc91e3
Criado, Constantino
f5474f82-e433-41fc-841f-4e2df783be79
Mcglone, Matt
b84ad1a5-3a14-4f14-a70f-9ee3e386cb48
Fernández-Palacios, Enrique
b84b56d2-a676-415f-a5c3-f8ddbc93b672
Fernández-Palacios, José María
94464d8e-4695-4942-af72-1fd91d0b1624

De Nascimento, Lea, Nogué, Sandra, Naranjo-Cigala, Agustín, Criado, Constantino, Mcglone, Matt, Fernández-Palacios, Enrique and Fernández-Palacios, José María (2020) Human impact and ecological changes during prehistoric settlement on the Canary Islands. Quaternary Science Reviews, 239, [106332]. (doi:10.1016/j.quascirev.2020.106332).

Record type: Article

Abstract

Oceanic islands remained free of humans until relatively recent times. On contact, humans encountered pristine environments with unique ecosystems and species highly vulnerable to novel impacts. In the course of rendering an island habitable, the new settlers transformed it through fire, deforestation, hunting and introduction of pests and weeds. The result, as described for many oceanic islands globally, has been a catastrophe for biodiversity. Here we present the case of the Canary Islands, an Atlantic archipelago renowned for its exceptional biodiversity, and show that these islands have been no exception to the general rule. We review the archaeological, palaeoecological, palaeontological and ecological literature for the archipelago and discuss the ecological consequences – in particular habitat transformation and biodiversity loss – of human settlement. In contrast to previous views that prehistoric humans had only limited impacts on these islands, we show that vegetation change, increased fire, soil erosion, species introductions and extinctions follow the familiar oceanic pattern. Timing of human settlement of the Canary Islands has been controversial, with revised archaeological dates suggesting a relatively late arrival at the beginning of the Common Era, while palaeoecological and palaeontological evidence favours a presence several centuries earlier. While the matter is still not settled, we suggest that settlement sometime between 2400 and 2000 cal years BP is a possibility.

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Main_text_de_Nascimento_et_al - Accepted Manuscript
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More information

Accepted/In Press date: 20 April 2020
e-pub ahead of print date: 26 May 2020
Published date: 1 July 2020
Keywords: Extinction, Holocene, Introduced species, North Atlantic, Oceanic islands, Paleogeography, Prehistoric human impact, Vegetation dynamics

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 442065
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/442065
ISSN: 0277-3791
PURE UUID: e5caaa4e-8299-4f5a-b31e-6a2d488379df
ORCID for Sandra Nogué: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0003-0093-4252

Catalogue record

Date deposited: 06 Jul 2020 16:36
Last modified: 26 Nov 2021 05:57

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Contributors

Author: Lea De Nascimento
Author: Sandra Nogué ORCID iD
Author: Agustín Naranjo-Cigala
Author: Constantino Criado
Author: Matt Mcglone
Author: Enrique Fernández-Palacios
Author: José María Fernández-Palacios

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