Document Type

Article

Publication Date

1997

Abstract

Regional, Holocene records hold particular relevance for understanding the reciprocal nature of global environmental change and one of its major human dimensions: "sustainable agriculture", i.e., food production strategies which entail fewer causes of and are less susceptible to environmental change. In an epoch of accelerating anthropogenic transformation, those records reveal the protracted regional causes and consequences of change (often agricultural) in the global system as well as informing models of prehistoric, intensive agriculture which, because of long tenures and high productivities, suggest strategies for sustainable agricultural in the present. This study employs physiographic analysis and the palynological, geochemical record from cores of basin fill to understand the reciprocal relation between environmental and land-use change in the Gulf of Mexico t~:opical lowland, focusing on a coastal basin sensitive to sea-level change and containing vestiges of prehistoric settlement and wetland agriculture. Fossil pollen reveals that the debut of maize cultivation in the Laguna Catarina watershed dates to ca. 4100 BC, predating the earliest evidence for that cultivar anywhere else in the lowlands of Middle America. Such an early date for a cultivar so central to Neotropical agroecology and environmental change, suggests the urgency of further research in the study region. Moreover, the longest period of continuous agriculture in the basin lasted nearly three millennia (ca. 2400 BC-AD 550) despite eustatic sea-level rise. Geochemical fluxes reveal the reciprocity between land-use and environmental change: slope destabilization, basin aggradation, and eutrophication. The consequent theoretical implications pertain to both applied and basic research. Redeploying ancient agroecologies in dynamic environments necessitates reconstructing the changing operational contexts of putative high productivity and sustainability. Adjusting land use in the face of global warming and eustatic sea-level rise necessitates understanding sediment influxes to coastal basins which, in turn, depend on vegetation, climate, and land use in watersheds.

Pages

127-46

Number

71

Publication Title

Global and Planetary Change

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