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The influence of natural fire and cultural practices on island ecosystems: Insights from a 4,800 year record from Gran Canaria, Canary Islands

The influence of natural fire and cultural practices on island ecosystems: Insights from a 4,800 year record from Gran Canaria, Canary Islands
The influence of natural fire and cultural practices on island ecosystems: Insights from a 4,800 year record from Gran Canaria, Canary Islands
Aim
Long‐term ecological data provide a stepped frame of island ecosystem transformation after successive waves of human colonization, essential to determine conservation and management baselines. However, the timing and ecological impact of initial human settlement on many islands is still poorly known. Here, we report analyses from a 4800‐year sedimentary sequence from Gran Canaria (Canary Islands), with the goal of disentangling forest responses to natural fire from early human pressure on the island.

Location
La Calderilla, a volcanic maar caldera at 1,770 m a.s.l. on Gran Canaria.

Taxon
Plants and fungi.

Methods
A core from the caldera infill was analysed for sediment properties, pollen, micro‐ and macrocharcoal, with radiocarbon and biochronology dating. Fossil data were statistically zoned and interpreted with the help of cross‐correlation and ordination analyses. Surface samples and a pollen–vegetation training set were used as modern analogues for vegetation reconstruction.

Results
Before human settlement (4,800–2,000 cal. yr bp), pine (Pinus canariensis) pollen dominated. Extensive dry pine forests characterized the highlands, although with temporary declining phases, followed by prompt (sub‐centennial scale) recovery. Towards 2,280 cal. yr bp there was a shift to open vegetation, marked by an increase in coprophilous spores. Coincidental with independent evidence of human settlement in the pine belt (2,000–470 cal. yr bp) there was a decline of pine and a peak in charcoal. Following historic settlement (470–0 cal. yr bp), pollen producers from anthropogenic habitats, secondary vegetation and coprophilous fungi increased in abundance, reflecting higher pressure of animal husbandry and farming. Modern moss polsters reflect extensive reforestation since 1950 ce (Common Era).

Main conclusions
From 4,800 cal. yr bp, the pristine vegetation covering the Gran Canaria highlands was a mosaic of dry pine forests and open vegetation. The pine forests sustained intense fires, which may well have promoted habitat diversity. Human interference was initiated around 2,280 cal. yr bp probably by recurrent cultural firing and animal husbandry, triggering a steady trend of forest withdrawal and expansion of grasses and scrubs, until the final disappearance of the pine forest locally in the 20th century. Grasslands were found to be of ancient cultural origin in the summit areas of Gran Canaria, although they underwent an expansion after the Castilian Conquest.
0305-0270
Ravazzi, Cesare
519042f4-fa3c-418e-8de4-3782528210f9
Mariani, Michela
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Criado, Constantino
dfe41ed9-9455-4515-86ad-1dc29af95d95
Garozzo, Lorena
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Naranjo‐Cigala, Agustín
ba2fe517-b3c7-420b-b3db-94f5c56c7ba4
Perez‐Torrado, Francisco J.
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Pini, Roberta
94cf316e-ee9a-4c4e-943b-3c2573f358ef
Rodriguez-Gonzalez, Alejando
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Nogué, Sandra
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Whittaker, Robert
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Fernández-Palacios, José María
be172e23-dcb1-4148-a55f-2a88867580b8
de Nascimento, Lea
5a189cbb-5a3d-4f96-bd37-92922224c8ca
Ravazzi, Cesare
519042f4-fa3c-418e-8de4-3782528210f9
Mariani, Michela
51686072-b665-430a-96e6-9f784f95df1f
Criado, Constantino
dfe41ed9-9455-4515-86ad-1dc29af95d95
Garozzo, Lorena
a0e915a8-a915-4184-b88b-b08671777b63
Naranjo‐Cigala, Agustín
ba2fe517-b3c7-420b-b3db-94f5c56c7ba4
Perez‐Torrado, Francisco J.
240b0b76-45ca-40ba-9baf-8a6da3383060
Pini, Roberta
94cf316e-ee9a-4c4e-943b-3c2573f358ef
Rodriguez-Gonzalez, Alejando
614bba7c-4a71-4c0d-a5cb-7219a49044a8
Nogué, Sandra
5b464cff-a158-481f-8b7f-647c93d7a034
Whittaker, Robert
27e4cd5e-05fd-4544-8200-63e030b49bea
Fernández-Palacios, José María
be172e23-dcb1-4148-a55f-2a88867580b8
de Nascimento, Lea
5a189cbb-5a3d-4f96-bd37-92922224c8ca

Ravazzi, Cesare, Mariani, Michela, Criado, Constantino, Garozzo, Lorena, Naranjo‐Cigala, Agustín, Perez‐Torrado, Francisco J., Pini, Roberta, Rodriguez-Gonzalez, Alejando, Nogué, Sandra, Whittaker, Robert, Fernández-Palacios, José María and de Nascimento, Lea (2020) The influence of natural fire and cultural practices on island ecosystems: Insights from a 4,800 year record from Gran Canaria, Canary Islands. Journal of Biogeography. (doi:10.1111/jbi.13995).

Record type: Article

Abstract

Aim
Long‐term ecological data provide a stepped frame of island ecosystem transformation after successive waves of human colonization, essential to determine conservation and management baselines. However, the timing and ecological impact of initial human settlement on many islands is still poorly known. Here, we report analyses from a 4800‐year sedimentary sequence from Gran Canaria (Canary Islands), with the goal of disentangling forest responses to natural fire from early human pressure on the island.

Location
La Calderilla, a volcanic maar caldera at 1,770 m a.s.l. on Gran Canaria.

Taxon
Plants and fungi.

Methods
A core from the caldera infill was analysed for sediment properties, pollen, micro‐ and macrocharcoal, with radiocarbon and biochronology dating. Fossil data were statistically zoned and interpreted with the help of cross‐correlation and ordination analyses. Surface samples and a pollen–vegetation training set were used as modern analogues for vegetation reconstruction.

Results
Before human settlement (4,800–2,000 cal. yr bp), pine (Pinus canariensis) pollen dominated. Extensive dry pine forests characterized the highlands, although with temporary declining phases, followed by prompt (sub‐centennial scale) recovery. Towards 2,280 cal. yr bp there was a shift to open vegetation, marked by an increase in coprophilous spores. Coincidental with independent evidence of human settlement in the pine belt (2,000–470 cal. yr bp) there was a decline of pine and a peak in charcoal. Following historic settlement (470–0 cal. yr bp), pollen producers from anthropogenic habitats, secondary vegetation and coprophilous fungi increased in abundance, reflecting higher pressure of animal husbandry and farming. Modern moss polsters reflect extensive reforestation since 1950 ce (Common Era).

Main conclusions
From 4,800 cal. yr bp, the pristine vegetation covering the Gran Canaria highlands was a mosaic of dry pine forests and open vegetation. The pine forests sustained intense fires, which may well have promoted habitat diversity. Human interference was initiated around 2,280 cal. yr bp probably by recurrent cultural firing and animal husbandry, triggering a steady trend of forest withdrawal and expansion of grasses and scrubs, until the final disappearance of the pine forest locally in the 20th century. Grasslands were found to be of ancient cultural origin in the summit areas of Gran Canaria, although they underwent an expansion after the Castilian Conquest.

Text
Main text - JBI-20-0119_FINALforWB - Accepted Manuscript
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Appendix - JBI-20-0119 R1 - Accepted Manuscript
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More information

Accepted/In Press date: 1 October 2020
e-pub ahead of print date: 21 November 2020

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 446031
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/446031
ISSN: 0305-0270
PURE UUID: 70dfc047-1436-46d3-8b4b-5c6fd76d5f04
ORCID for Sandra Nogué: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0003-0093-4252

Catalogue record

Date deposited: 19 Jan 2021 17:32
Last modified: 26 Nov 2021 07:18

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Contributors

Author: Cesare Ravazzi
Author: Michela Mariani
Author: Constantino Criado
Author: Lorena Garozzo
Author: Agustín Naranjo‐Cigala
Author: Francisco J. Perez‐Torrado
Author: Roberta Pini
Author: Alejando Rodriguez-Gonzalez
Author: Sandra Nogué ORCID iD
Author: Robert Whittaker
Author: José María Fernández-Palacios
Author: Lea de Nascimento

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