PerspectiveFood Security

Human-food feedback in tropical forests

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Science  11 Jun 2021:
Vol. 372, Issue 6547, pp. 1146-1147
DOI: 10.1126/science.abh1806

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Summary

The image of tropical forests as harsh environments devoid of large human populations has held sway in Western minds for centuries. Since the 1980s, researchers began to learn how these landscapes have been transformed by Indigenous peoples, who developed diverse forest-based food production systems. How did these apparently natural forests come to be dominated by plant species so closely associated with humans? Perhaps ancient societies decided to settle where forests were already abundant in food and medicine, or maybe they were the ones who enriched their homes (15)—but it is probably a bit of both.

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