Asian rainforests and human history


This video is called National Geographic Live! : Borneo: Paradise Under Siege

From Wildlife Extra:

Rainforests in Far East shaped by humans for the last 11,000 years

Tropical forests of South East Asia have been shaped by humans for thousands of years say scientists from Queen’s University Belfast.

The rainforests of Borneo, Sumatra, Java, Thailand and Vietnam were previously thought to have been largely unaffected by humans, but a major analysis of vegetation histories across the three islands and the SE Asian mainland has revealed a pattern of repeated disturbance of vegetation since the end of the last ice age approximately 11,000 years ago.

Dr Hunt, who is Director of Research on Environmental Change at Queen’s School of Geography, Archaeology and Palaeoecology, said: “It has long been believed that the rainforests of the Far East were virgin wildernesses, where human impact has been minimal. Our findings, however, indicate a history of disturbances to vegetation. While it could be tempting to blame these disturbances on climate change, that is not the case as they do not coincide with any known periods of climate change. Rather, these vegetation changes have been brought about by the actions of people.

“Nearer to the Borneo coastline, the New Guinea Sago Palm first appeared over 10,000 years ago. This would have involved a voyage of more than 2,200km from its native New Guinea, and its arrival on the island is consistent with other known maritime voyages in the region at that time – evidence that people imported the Sago seeds and planted them.”

The findings have huge importance for ecological studies of rainforests as the historical role of people in managing the forest vegetation has rarely been considered. It could also have an impact on rainforest peoples fighting the advance of logging companies.

Dr Hunt explains: “Laws in several countries in South East Asia do not recognise the rights of indigenous forest dwellers on the grounds that they are nomads who leave no permanent mark on the landscape. Given that we can now demonstrate their active management of the forests for more than 11,000 years, these people have a new argument in their case against eviction.”

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