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Mapping past human land use using archaeological data: A new classification for global land use synthesis and data harmonization

Morrison, Kathleen D. and Hammer, Emily and Boles, Oliver and Madella, Marco and Whitehouse, Nicola and Gaillard, Marie-Jose and Bates, Jennifer and Vander Linden, Marc and Merlo, Stefania and Yao, Alice and Popova, Laura and Hill, Austin Chad and Antolin, Ferran and Bauer, Andrew and Biagetti, Stefano and Bishop, Rosie R. and Buckland, Phillip and Cruz, Pablo and Dreslerová, Dagmar and Dusseldorp, Gerrit and Ellis, Erle and Filipovic, Dragana and Foster, Thomas and Hannaford, Matthew J. and Harrison, Sandy P. and Hazarika, Manjil and Herold, Hajnalka and Hilpert, Johanna and Kaplan, Jed O. and Kay, Andrea and Klein Goldewijk, Kees and Kolář, Jan and Kyazike, Elizabeth and Laabs, Julian and Lancelotti, Carla and Lane, Paul and Lawrence, Dan and Lewis, Krista and Lombardo, Umberto and Lucarini, Giulio and Arroyo-Kalin, Manuel and Marchant, Rob and Mayle, Francis and McClatchie, Meriel and McLeester, Madeleine and Mooney, Scott and Moskal-del Hoyo, Magdalena and Navarrete, Vanessa and Ndiema, Emmanuel and Góes Neves, Eduardo and Nowak, Marek and Out, Welmoed A. and Petrie, Cameron and Phelps, Leanne N. and Pinke, Zsolt and Rostain, Stéphen and Russell, Thembi and Sluyter, Andrew and Styring, Amy K. and Tamanaha, Eduardo and Thomas, Evert and Veerasamy, Selvakumar and Welton, Lynn and Zanon, Marco (2021) 'Mapping past human land use using archaeological data: A new classification for global land use synthesis and data harmonization.', PLOS ONE, 16 (4). e0246662.

Abstract

In the 12,000 years preceding the Industrial Revolution, human activities led to significant changes in land cover, plant and animal distributions, surface hydrology, and biochemical cycles. Earth system models suggest that this anthropogenic land cover change influenced regional and global climate. However, the representation of past land use in earth system models is currently oversimplified. As a result, there are large uncertainties in the current understanding of the past and current state of the earth system. In order to improve representation of the variety and scale of impacts that past land use had on the earth system, a global effort is underway to aggregate and synthesize archaeological and historical evidence of land use systems. Here we present a simple, hierarchical classification of land use systems designed to be used with archaeological and historical data at a global scale and a schema of codes that identify land use practices common to a range of systems, both implemented in a geospatial database. The classification scheme and database resulted from an extensive process of consultation with researchers worldwide. Our scheme is designed to deliver consistent, empirically robust data for the improvement of land use models, while simultaneously allowing for a comparative, detailed mapping of land use relevant to the needs of historical scholars. To illustrate the benefits of the classification scheme and methods for mapping historical land use, we apply it to Mesopotamia and Arabia at 6 kya (c. 4000 BCE). The scheme will be used to describe land use by the Past Global Changes (PAGES) LandCover6k working group, an international project comprised of archaeologists, historians, geographers, paleoecologists, and modelers. Beyond this, the scheme has a wide utility for creating a common language between research and policy communities, linking archaeologists with climate modelers, biodiversity conservation workers and initiatives.

Item Type:Article
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Available under License - Creative Commons Attribution 4.0.
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Status:Peer-reviewed
Publisher Web site:https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0246662
Publisher statement:© 2021 Morrison et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
Date accepted:24 January 2021
Date deposited:11 November 2021
Date of first online publication:14 April 2021
Date first made open access:11 November 2021

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