An Imperfect Balance: Landscape Transformations in the Pre-Columbian Americas

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Overview

We often envision the New World before the arrival of the Europeans as a land of pristine natural beauty and undisturbed environments. However, David Lentz offers an alternative view by detailing the impact of native cultures on these ecosystems prior to their contact with Europeans. Drawing on a wide range of experts from the fields of paleoclimatology, historical ecology, paleontology, botany, geology, conservation science, and resource management, this book unlocks the secret of how the Western Hemisphere's indigenous inhabitants influenced and transformed their natural environment.

A rare combination of collaborators uncovers the changes that took place in North America, Mexico, Central America, the Andes, and Amazonia. Each section of the book has been comprehensively arranged so that a botanical description of the natural vegetation of the region is coupled with a set of case studies outlining local human influences. From modifications of vegetation, to changes in soil, wildlife, microclimate, hydrology, and the land surface itself, this collection addresses one of the great issues of our time: the human modification of the earth.

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Editorial Reviews

Martin Grosjean
The combination of articles and examples in [this] book is able to draw a picture of pre-columbians as integral and influential parts and components of the landscape. The volume brings together natural scientists, archaeologists, and cultural ecologists to investigate the interaction between natural systems and human intervention. Such a combination is rarely seen in this comprehensive manner.
Booknews
Contains 15 contributions written by natural scientists, archaeologists, and cultural ecologists, primarily from the US, and a few from Mexico, examining the physical environment and human modifications upon it. There is coverage of climatic change and vegetation patterns, along with regional and local land-use studies for North America, Mexico, Central America, the Andes, and Amazonia. Environmental changes discussed include modification of vegetation, soil, wildlife, microclimate, hydrology, and the land surface itself. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780231111560
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press
  • Publication date: 9/28/2000
  • Series: Historical Ecology Series
  • Pages: 788
  • Lexile: 1420L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 7.24 (w) x 10.22 (h) x 1.33 (d)

Meet the Author

David Lentz is director of the graduate studies program at The New York Botanical Garden. He is the author or coauthor of and contributor to more than fifty scholarly articles and books.

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Table of Contents

List of Tables and Figures
List of Contributors
Foreword
Acknowledgments
1 Introduction: Definitions and Conceptual Underpinnings 1
2 Climate Change in the Northern American Tropics and Subtropics since the Last Ice Age: Implications for Environment and Culture 13
3 Vegetation in the Floristic Regions of North and Central America 39
4 Anthropocentric Food Webs in the Precolumbian Americas 89
5 Prehispanic Agricultural Systems in the Basin of Mexico 121
6 Prehispanic Water Management and Agricultural Intensification in Mexico and Venezuela: Implications for Contemporary Ecological Planning 147
7 Stability and Instability in Prehispanic Maya Landscapes 179
8 Precolumbian Silviculture and Indigenous Management of Neotropical Forests 203
9 Native Farming Systems and Ecosystems in the Mississippi River Valley 225
10 Hohokam Impacts on Sonoran Desert Environment 251
11 Vegetation of the Tropical Andes: An Overview 281
12 The Lake Titicaca Basin: A Precolumbian Built Landscape 311
13 Andean Land Use at the Cusp of History 357
14 Lowland Vegetation of Tropical South America: An Overview 391
15 The Lower Amazon: A Dynamic Human Habitat 455
Summary and Conclusions 493
Index 507
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