PALEOECOLOGY

Human impact on African forests

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Science  23 Mar 2018:
Vol. 359, Issue 6382, pp. 1374-1375
DOI: 10.1126/science.359.6382.1374-a

Ancient forest fragmentation is a result of direct human impacts, not climate.

PHOTO: MOKHAMAD EDLIADI/CIFOR

About 2600 years ago, continuous forest in western central Africa was replaced by a mosaic of forest and savanna. It has been unclear, however, whether this was caused by climate change or expansion of the contemporary human population. Using a sedimentary record of vegetation and hydrological history from Cameroon, Garcin et al. confirm the key role of humans in this transition. Although the pollen record indicates an abrupt fragmentation of the forest, there is no signature of an accompanying hydrological change. Nor did the hydrology alter 500 years later when the landscape reverted once more to forest, indicating a negligible role for climate.

Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 10.1073/pnas.1715336115 (2018).

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