Hola my friends,
I recently saw a fascinating animation on Youtube. No, it was not a cat playing a piano… I know, you cannot believe it! But what I saw is far more intriguing. It shows the change in global land use from 8,000 BP (BP = before the present) to 50 years from now (-50 BP, a figure I find amusing). I love to think about great spans of time, so this was like paleontological “catnip” to me.
Eight thousand years ago is when the human population began expanding following the dawn of agriculture. Like so many simulations of this kind, it’s difficult to really see all the detail in the last couple of seconds, since so much happens so quickly once the Industrial Revolution happens…
The animation was made by ARVE, which stands for Atmosphere Regolith Vegetation, a group of scientists at a polytechnic university in Lausanne, Switzerland. Research at ARVE focuses on how changes in the terrestrial biosphere amplify changes in the climate system by examining the interaction between soils, vegetation and the atmosphere.
By combining maps of potential vegetation and land use intensity, we create high resolution maps of vegetation and human impact covering the entire Holocene [*] for the Mediterranean. This allows us to address a number research questions, including the time history of human impact in relation to conservation, biodiversity, and land degradation; and the impact of land cover change on terrestrial hydrology and carbon and nutrient cycling.
*The Holocene is the geological epoch we on earth have been in for the last 10,000 years.
We think we on Earth right now are the first people to create areas drastic deforestation. Far from it. Of particular interest to me is the re-vegetation of South America:
Following the first contact with Europeans around 1500, nearly 90% of the indigenous people of the Americas were killed, mainly by disease. This collapse in populations led to massive regrowth of natural vegetation, especially forests in the Amazon, Andes, and Mesoamerica. As we race towards modern times we see the settlement of the Americas and Australia by Europeans spreading across the continents, and the development of the human-dominated world we have today.
Indeed, my friends…