Hunter-gatherer impact on European interglacial vegetation: A modelling approach

Article coécrit par Maria Antonia Serge & Florence Mazier

Publié le 24 janvier 2024 Mis à jour le 26 janvier 2024

- Novel agent-based model designed to explore how diverse factors affected paleo-landscapes. - Study suggests human impact on the environment as the primary non-climate factor affecting landscapes in the Early Holocene. - Modelling results show foragers' impact depends on population size, accessible area and vegetation openness around campsites.

This article focuses on hunter-gatherer impact on interglacial vegetation in Europe, using a case study from the Early Holocene (9200–8700 BP). We present a novel agent-based model, hereafter referred to as HUMLAND (HUMan impact on LANDscapes), specifically developed to define key factors in continental-level vegetation changes via assessment of differences between pollen-based reconstruction and dynamic global vegetation model output (climate-based vegetation cover).

The identified significant difference between these two datasets can be partially explained by the difference in the models themselves, but also by the fact that climate is not the sole factor responsible for vegetation change. Sensitivity analysis of HUMLAND showed that the intensity of anthropogenic vegetation modification mainly depended on three factors: the number of groups present, their preferences for vegetation openness around campsites, and the size of an area impacted by humans.

Overall, both climate and human activities had strong impacts on vegetation openness during the study period. Our modelling results support the hypothesis that European ecosystems were strongly shaped by human activities already in the Mesolithic.

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