Anthropogenic Soils and Sustainability in Amazonia
Despite its great biotic concentration and diversity, the Amazon Basin (Figure 46.1) has been seen as a region capable of supporting only a low population density based upon non-intensive subsistence activities and that all attempts at intensifying the area’s food production and increasing its sustainable populations are doomed to failure (e.g., Meggers 1996). However, questions have been raised about this traditional viewpoint and it has been proposed that complex societies with large, sedentary populations were present for at least a millennium before European contact (Heckenberger et al. 1999). It appears that early aboriginal cultivators had developed field management mechanisms that mimicked the processes long operant within habitation areas where basic soil properties were radically changed through the addition of ash and other organic materials (Hecht and Posey 1989). As a result, long after the decimation of these peoples during the early historic period, their enriched soils still are a major resource for agriculture in Amazonia (Glaser et al. 2001) and a proper understanding of these soils’ properties may provide a major resource for future populations (Mann 2002). Geographers, including William Denevan, Susanna Hecht, Joseph McCann, Nigel Smith, and William Woods, have played an integral part in the interdisciplinary research investigation of the anthropogenic soils.
KeywordsCombustion Maize Europe Charcoal Melon
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