Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Amazonian Fire and the Little Ice Age

Fire in the savanna north of the Yacuma River (photo by John Walker)

Here is an article by Robert Dull, Richard Nevle, William Woods, Dennis Bird, Shiri Avnery and William Denevan that argues for a connection between the large scale depopulation of the Amazon after 1492, and the well-known climatic phenomenon called the Little Ice Age in Northern Europe during the 16th through the 19th centuries (more or less). The link in this argument is the idea that pre-Columbian Amazonians had cleared large parts of the forests of the Amazon Basin, and when their populations plummeted after contact with Europeans, the Amazon Basin vegetation grew tremendously, which had the effect of sequestering enough carbon to influence climate on a global scale. The authors don't claim that this depopulation caused the Little Ice Age, but they do see it as an important cause.

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