Researchers believe that the settlers burned the forests in order to make room for cattle pastures.
(Mirror Daily, United States) – According to the latest study, a large part of the forests in Madagascar were destroyed by human settlers. Contrary to popular belief, humans were destroying our planet’s forests long before they started the Industrial Revolution. It seems that the oxygen producing trees were standing in the way of the settlers which needed broader spaces for cattle grazing more than 1000 years ago.
A team of researchers from the Massachusetts University and MIT found a link between human settlers and the permanent loss of large forest areas in Madagascar. According to the evidence they found, the settlers actually burned down the forests in order to make room for their cattle.
The team reached these conclusions after analyzing the composition shift in carbon and calcium in the stalagmites from the Madagascar region. In just a century, the ratios of carbon isotopes typical for shrubs and trees changed to those that are consistent with the presence of wide areas of grasslands.
The researchers stated that the transformation was too sudden to be attributed to climate change or any natural occurring phenomenon. This means that the changes were more than probably made by the human settlers.
Madagascar was colonized approximately 3,000 years in the past. For the first 2,000 years, the human tribes were the hunter-gatherer type. But then they slightly began to introduce cattle into their diet. As the herds grew, they needed more space and more pastures to feed upon.
That is probably the moment in which the settlers decided that the forests should be replaced with grasslands. According to the researchers, the most probable deforestation techniques that they used were slashing and burning.
This new evidence bears great significance not only for anthropologists who have new and exciting evidence on how the tribes of settlers in Madagascar evolved over the years but also for climate change researchers who are now able to draw a more precise timeline of the human intervention upon the environment.
A great part of the forests in Madagascar were destroyed by human settlers more than a thousand years ago. This means that the human race didn’t start massively affecting the environment at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, but far earlier in the past.
With such clues about human interference, climate change researchers could draw up a more precise timeline for the moment in which massive interferences took place and up until the present moment.
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