Dearing, J.A., Battarbee, R.W., Dikau, R., Larocque, I. and Oldfield, F.
Human-environment interactions: learning from the past
Regional Environmental Change, 6, (1-2), . (doi:10.1007/s10113-005-0011-8).
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The analysis of palaeoenvironmental archives—sediments, archaeological remains, tree-rings, documents and instrumental records—is presented as a key element in the global scientific endeavour aimed at understanding human–environment interactions at the present day and in the future. The paper explains the need for the focus on palaeoenvironmental studies as a means of ‘learning from the past’, and presents the rationale and structure of the IGBP-PAGES Focus 5 programme ‘Past Ecosystem Processes and Human–Environment Interactions’. The past, as described through palaeoenvironmental studies, can yield information about pre-impact states, trajectories of recent change, causation, complex system behaviour, and provide the basis for developing and testing simulation models. Learning from the past in each of these epistemological categories is exemplified with published case-studies.
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