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Quaternary 2018, 1(3), 32; https://doi.org/10.3390/quat1030032

Two Thousand Years of Land-Use and Vegetation Evolution in the Andean Highlands of Northern Chile Inferred from Pollen and Charcoal Analyses

1
Department of Anthropology, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802, USA
2
Centro de Estudios Avanzados en Zonas Áridas, Raul Bitran No. 1305, La Serena 1700000, Chile
3
Herbario Nacional de Bolivia, Universidad Mayor de San Andrés, Cota Calle 27, La Paz 15000, Bolivia
4
Instituto de Alta Investigación, Universidad de Tarapacá, Antofagasta 1520, Arica 100000, Chile
5
Instituto de Investigación Multidisciplinario en Ciencia y Tecnología, Universidad de La Serena, La Serena 1700000, Chile
6
Departamento de Biología Marina, Universidad Católica del Norte, Larrondo 1281, Coquimbo 1781421, Chile
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editors: Encarni Montoya, Bronwen S. Whitney and Valentí Rull
Received: 1 October 2018 / Revised: 1 December 2018 / Accepted: 10 December 2018 / Published: 19 December 2018
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Abstract

The European conquest of the New World produced major socio-environmental reorganization in the Americas, but for many specific regions and ecosystems, we still do not understand how these changes occurred within a broader temporal framework. In this paper, we reconstruct the long-term environmental and vegetation changes experienced by high-altitude wetlands of the southcentral Andes over the last two millennia. Pollen and charcoal analyses of a 5.5-m-long core recovered from the semi-arid puna of northern Chile indicate that while climatic drivers influenced vegetation turnaround, human land use and management strategies significantly affected long-term changes. Our results indicate that the puna vegetation mostly dominated by grasslands and some peatland taxa stabilized during the late Holocene, xerophytic shrubs expanded during extremely dry events, and peatland vegetation persisted in relation to landscape-scale management strategies by Andean pastoralist societies. Environmental changes produced during the post-conquest period included the introduction of exotic taxa, such as clovers, associated with the translocation of exotic herding animals (sheep, cattle, and donkeys) and a deterioration in the management of highland wetlands. View Full-Text
Keywords: Holocene; human impact; environmental change; socio-ecological systems; camelid pastoralism; microcharcoal Holocene; human impact; environmental change; socio-ecological systems; camelid pastoralism; microcharcoal
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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).
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Domic, A.I.; Capriles, J.M.; Escobar-Torrez, K.; Santoro, C.M.; Maldonado, A. Two Thousand Years of Land-Use and Vegetation Evolution in the Andean Highlands of Northern Chile Inferred from Pollen and Charcoal Analyses. Quaternary 2018, 1, 32.

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