Special Issue "Living with Unpredictability: Insights from Landscape Historical Ecologies"

A special issue of Land (ISSN 2073-445X).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 August 2021) | Viewed by 8112

Special Issue Editors

Dr. Nik Petek-Sargeant
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
British Museum, London, UK
Interests: historical ecology; pastoralism; historical archaeology; material culture
Dr. Federica Sulas
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK
Interests: landscape historical ecology; farming; water systems
Prof. Dr. Paul Lane
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Archaeology, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK
Interests: archaeology of Africa; landscape historical ecology; East African pastoralism

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Growing environmental unpredictability due to continued overexploitation of resources and climate change is of major international concern. Variability and unpredictability are seen as limitations and hinderances to development and planning and raise anxieties regarding local and transnational conflict over resource availability. However, many communities are living and have thrived in regions where unpredictabile climate regimes and natural resource availability are the norm, even though their environments are labelled as ‘fragile’. This particularly applies to drylands, which cover around 40% of the Earth’s landmass and include some of the most biodiverse places. Better understanding of how unpredictability and fragility are embedded in the people–landscape–energy–resources nexus is necessary.

Over the last forty years or so, historical ecology has developed new ways of studying the interplay of people, landscapes, energy and resources and their long-term development. In particular, the field has underscored how the present and future are dependent on past changes and how deep-time perspectives are key for modelling future socioecological scenarios. Historical ecology recognises that landscapes are not ‘fixed’, although the inherent unpredictability of many is overshadowed by narratives based around ‘having control’ through discussions on adaptation, transformation and resilience.

The aim of the Special Issue is to explore global historical ecological approaches to living with unpredictability and the socioecological dynamisms that this required. There is a growing need to position unpredictability as a central historical feature contributing to the development of modern landscapes and for addressing how adpative responses to uncertainty can best be embedded in planning future sustainability and resilience.

The topic will be explored through the following themes:

  • Epistemologies of unpredictability and managing change;
  • Accepting and valuing variability;
  • Fragility and vulnerability of landscapes and human–environment interactions;
  • Multiscalar and holistic socioecological responses;
  • Deep-time perspectives on societal responses to ecological uncertainty.

Contributions regarding different geographical regions with a focus on landscape approaches to historical ecology from various disciplines are welcome.

Dr. Nik Petek-Sargeant
Dr. Federica Sulas
Prof. Dr. Paul Lane
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All submissions that pass pre-check are peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Land is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 2000 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • Unpredictability and instability
  • Community and landscape fragility
  • Multiscalar landscape approaches
  • Socioecological dynamism
  • Landscape historical ecology

Published Papers (3 papers)

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Research

Article
Divining the Future: Making Sense of Ecological Uncertainty in Turkana, Northern Kenya
Land 2021, 10(9), 885; https://doi.org/10.3390/land10090885 - 24 Aug 2021
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 2634
Abstract
This article draws on long-term ethnographic fieldwork to examine some recent livelihood transformations that have taken place in the Turkana region of northern Kenya. In doing so, it discusses some of the ways in which uncertainty and variability have been managed in Turkana [...] Read more.
This article draws on long-term ethnographic fieldwork to examine some recent livelihood transformations that have taken place in the Turkana region of northern Kenya. In doing so, it discusses some of the ways in which uncertainty and variability have been managed in Turkana to date and considers what this means in relation to a future that promises continued radical economic and ecological change. Discussing a selection of examples, we argue that understandings of contemporary transformative processes are enhanced through attention to the ways in which various forms of knowledge have been constituted and implemented over the long term. We suggest that ongoing transformations within livelihood practices, inter-livelihood relationships and corresponding patterns of mobility might best be understood as manifestations of a long-standing capacity for successfully managing the very uncertainty that characterises daily life. Full article
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Article
Coping with Risk. A Deep-Time Perspective on Societal Responses to Ecological Uncertainty in the River Dalälven Catchment Area in Sweden
Land 2021, 10(8), 883; https://doi.org/10.3390/land10080883 - 23 Aug 2021
Viewed by 2224
Abstract
In addressing the current climate crisis, research into how past societies have coped with risk and ecological uncertainty can provide old solutions to new problems. Here, we examine how human niche construction can be seen as risk management in the face of uncertainty [...] Read more.
In addressing the current climate crisis, research into how past societies have coped with risk and ecological uncertainty can provide old solutions to new problems. Here, we examine how human niche construction can be seen as risk management in the face of uncertainty by exploring the spatial patterning of land-use activities over time. Dalarna county, an agriculturally marginal boreal forest environment, provides the opportunity for addressing change in terms of agricultural responses and other activities. C14 archaeological records complied by Dalarna Museum were the base of this analysis. The spatial and temporal components of these Boreal Forest records were analyzed in the open-source software QGIS, guided by a historical ecology framework. Human niches diversified and intensified during specific periods in the Boreal forest environment; our focus has been on how humans managed resource risk related to the ecological uncertainty within this forest environment characterized by long winters and short growing seasons. We conclude that constructed niches shaped the Boreal Forest, spanning its environmentally unique upland and lowland regions, into a more predictable environment. Tracking the diversity, multi-functionality, and intensity of these past land-use activities can provide insights for best practices in land management, not only for the Boreal Forest area, but also for elsewhere. These insights will assist in policy-making decisions, as the methodology is adaptable and replicable for various landscapes. Full article
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Article
De-/Fencing Grasslands: Ongoing Boundary Making and Unmaking in Postcolonial Kenya
Land 2021, 10(8), 786; https://doi.org/10.3390/land10080786 - 27 Jul 2021
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 2639
Abstract
Across contemporary East Africa, fencing is spreading with incredible speed over hundreds of thousands of hectares of rangelands, fundamentally reconfiguring land tenure dynamics. But why is this happening now, what are the precursors, and what will happen in the years to come? In [...] Read more.
Across contemporary East Africa, fencing is spreading with incredible speed over hundreds of thousands of hectares of rangelands, fundamentally reconfiguring land tenure dynamics. But why is this happening now, what are the precursors, and what will happen in the years to come? In this article, we ask how pre- and post-colonial landscape gridding perpetuate a slow violence across the landscape through processes of de-/fencing. Fencing, we argue, is embedded in a landscape logic that favours exclusive rights and conditioned access. In two case studies from grazing lands in Kenya, we explore how people engage with the tension of an imposed landscape logic of fencing by either asserting or challenging its very physicality. We propose that de-/fencing are ways of anticipating long-standing land tenure uncertainties. Moreover, we use our cases to explore different points of reference along the mattering of land tenure boundaries as well as the sort of horizons to which fencing leads. We also use this knowledge to improve our understanding of parallel prehistoric cases of large-scale landscape enclosure. By unfolding the intertwined socio-political and material nature of gridded landscapes, we seek to bring the study of fencing out of conservation literature and into its wider culture-historical context. Full article
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