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Colonization during colonialism: developing a framework to assess the rapid ecological transformation of Mauritius’s pristine ecosystem

Colonization during colonialism: developing a framework to assess the rapid ecological transformation of Mauritius’s pristine ecosystem
Colonization during colonialism: developing a framework to assess the rapid ecological transformation of Mauritius’s pristine ecosystem
The colonization of Mauritius exemplifies the role played by humans in altering the ecosystems of remote oceanic islands, with the island famously being home to the iconic symbol of extinction, the dodo.

Only inhabited for about 380 years, it now has the highest population density of any African nation; despite scant natural resources, it also has one of the continent’s highest GDPs. These seeming paradoxes stem from the specific forces and chronology that shaped its colonization. Despite its proximity to Madagascar, there is no evidence of prehistoric human colonization on the island (Tooranwa [sic], 2003; Toorawa, 2007).

This paper focuses on how we study those islands first colonized under the global mantle of colonialism. Here we aim to provide a theoretical framework for historical ecological investigations to disentangle the processes, impacts, and outcomes of colonization during colonialism, considering local, regional, and global drivers. The paper provides a review of existing literature, outlines a proposed research program encompassing paleoecology, palaeoclimatology, archaeology, and history, and offers details of potential research sites. We present ‘historical ecology’ as a framework to aid future work, and argue that a refined understanding of the impact of human colonization can help create a nuanced chronology of environmental degradation that typifies Mauritius. Such detailed assessment is necessary to inform contemporary ecological conservation efforts. Finally, we argue that narratives of changing ecosystems and practice can help construct ‘usable pasts’, often missing from historical records, for the multicultural populace of the island.
biodiversity, extinction, environment, historical ecology, archeology, Indian Ocean, oceanic islands,
Seetah, Krish
36b0b3ff-d5f7-44ee-8970-51c29b76f165
Manfio, Stefania
64fa98e6-fc0d-4081-9bc1-6024e602b46f
Balbo, Andrea
3232ba0b-862c-48bc-8870-3e970ccaf0ae
Farr, Helen
4aba646f-b279-4d7a-8795-b0ae9e772fe9
Florens, Vincent
e97e0a31-da66-49b8-a243-fe523910e5b3
Seetah, Krish
36b0b3ff-d5f7-44ee-8970-51c29b76f165
Manfio, Stefania
64fa98e6-fc0d-4081-9bc1-6024e602b46f
Balbo, Andrea
3232ba0b-862c-48bc-8870-3e970ccaf0ae
Farr, Helen
4aba646f-b279-4d7a-8795-b0ae9e772fe9
Florens, Vincent
e97e0a31-da66-49b8-a243-fe523910e5b3

Seetah, Krish, Manfio, Stefania, Balbo, Andrea, Farr, Helen and Florens, Vincent (2022) Colonization during colonialism: developing a framework to assess the rapid ecological transformation of Mauritius’s pristine ecosystem. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, 10, [791539]. (doi:10.3389/fevo.2022.791539).

Record type: Article

Abstract

The colonization of Mauritius exemplifies the role played by humans in altering the ecosystems of remote oceanic islands, with the island famously being home to the iconic symbol of extinction, the dodo.

Only inhabited for about 380 years, it now has the highest population density of any African nation; despite scant natural resources, it also has one of the continent’s highest GDPs. These seeming paradoxes stem from the specific forces and chronology that shaped its colonization. Despite its proximity to Madagascar, there is no evidence of prehistoric human colonization on the island (Tooranwa [sic], 2003; Toorawa, 2007).

This paper focuses on how we study those islands first colonized under the global mantle of colonialism. Here we aim to provide a theoretical framework for historical ecological investigations to disentangle the processes, impacts, and outcomes of colonization during colonialism, considering local, regional, and global drivers. The paper provides a review of existing literature, outlines a proposed research program encompassing paleoecology, palaeoclimatology, archaeology, and history, and offers details of potential research sites. We present ‘historical ecology’ as a framework to aid future work, and argue that a refined understanding of the impact of human colonization can help create a nuanced chronology of environmental degradation that typifies Mauritius. Such detailed assessment is necessary to inform contemporary ecological conservation efforts. Finally, we argue that narratives of changing ecosystems and practice can help construct ‘usable pasts’, often missing from historical records, for the multicultural populace of the island.

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Accepted/In Press date: 15 February 2022
Published date: 12 April 2022
Keywords: biodiversity, extinction, environment, historical ecology, archeology, Indian Ocean, oceanic islands,

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 468128
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/468128
PURE UUID: a20f914a-3ce8-499f-8bc6-b1d570b21998
ORCID for Helen Farr: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0002-7922-9179

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Date deposited: 03 Aug 2022 16:37
Last modified: 04 Aug 2022 01:44

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Contributors

Author: Krish Seetah
Author: Stefania Manfio
Author: Andrea Balbo
Author: Helen Farr ORCID iD
Author: Vincent Florens

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