Drivers and trajectories of land cover change in East Africa: Human and environmental interactions from 6000 years ago to present

Marchant, Rob and Richer, Suzi and Boles, Oliver and Capitani, Claudia and Courtney-Mustaphi, Colin J. and Lane, Paul and Prendergast, Mary E. and Stump, Daryl and De Cort, Gijs and Kaplan, Jed O. and Phelps, Leanne and Kay, Andrea and Olago, Dan and Petek, Nik and Platts, Philip J. and Punwong, Paramita and Widgren, Mats and Wynne-Jones, Stephanie and Ferro-Vázquez, Cruz and Benard, Jacquiline and Boivin, Nicole and Crowther, Alison and Cuní-Sanchez, Aida and Deere, Nicolas and Ekblom, Anneli and Farmer, Jennifer and Finch, Jemma and Fuller, Dorian and Gaillard-Lemdahl, Marie-José and Gillson, Lindsey and Githumbi, Esther and Kabora, Tabitha and Kariuki, Rebecca and Kinyanjui, Rahab and Kyazike, Elizabeth and Lang, Carol and Lejju, Julius and Morrison, Kathleen D. and Muiruri, Veronica and Mumbi, Cassian and Muthoni, Rebecca and Muzuka, Alfred and Ndiema, Emmanuel and Kabonyi Nzabandora, Chantal and Onjala, Isaya and Schrijver, Annemiek Pas and Rucina, Stephen and Shoemaker, Anna and Thornton-Barnett, Senna and van der Plas, Geert and Watson, Elizabeth E. and Williamson, David and Wright, David (2018) Drivers and trajectories of land cover change in East Africa: Human and environmental interactions from 6000 years ago to present. Earth-Science Reviews, 178 . pp. 322-378. ISSN 0012-8252. (doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.earscirev.2017.12.010) (Access to this publication is currently restricted. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided)

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Abstract

East African landscapes today are the result of the cumulative effects of climate and land-use change over millennial timescales. In this review, we compile archaeological and palaeoenvironmental data from East Africa to document land-cover change, and environmental, subsistence and land-use transitions, over the past 6000?years. Throughout East Africa there have been a series of relatively rapid and high-magnitude environmental shifts characterised by changing hydrological budgets during the mid- to late Holocene. For example, pronounced environmental shifts that manifested as a marked change in the rainfall amount or seasonality and subsequent hydrological budget throughout East Africa occurred around 4000, 800 and 300 radiocarbon years before present (yr BP). The past 6000?years have also seen numerous shifts in human interactions with East African ecologies. From the mid-Holocene, land use has both diversified and increased exponentially, this has been associated with the arrival of new subsistence systems, crops, migrants and technologies, all giving rise to a sequence of significant phases of land-cover change. The first large-scale human influences began to occur around 4000?yr BP, associated with the introduction of domesticated livestock and the expansion of pastoral communities. The first widespread and intensive forest clearances were associated with the arrival of iron-using early farming communities around 2500?yr BP, particularly in productive and easily-cleared mid-altitudinal areas. Extensive and pervasive land-cover change has been associated with population growth, immigration and movement of people. The expansion of trading routes between the interior and the coast, starting around 1300?years ago and intensifying in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries CE, was one such process. These caravan routes possibly acted as conduits for spreading New World crops such as maize (Zea mays), tobacco (Nicotiana spp.) and tomatoes (Solanum lycopersicum), although the processes and timings of their introductions remains poorly documented. The introduction of southeast Asian domesticates, especially banana (Musa spp.), rice (Oryza spp.), taro (Colocasia esculenta), and chicken (Gallus gallus), via transoceanic biological transfers around and across the Indian Ocean, from at least around 1300?yr BP, and potentially significantly earlier, also had profound social and ecological consequences across parts of the region. Through an interdisciplinary synthesis of information and metadatasets, we explore the different drivers and directions of changes in land-cover, and the associated environmental histories and interactions with various cultures, technologies, and subsistence strategies through time and across space in East Africa. This review suggests topics for targeted future research that focus on areas and/or time periods where our understanding of the interactions between people, the environment and land-cover change are most contentious and/or poorly resolved. The review also offers a perspective on how knowledge of regional land-use change can be used to inform and provide perspectives on contemporary issues such as climate and ecosystem change models, conservation strategies, and the achievement of nature-based solutions for development purposes.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled keywords: Archaeology; Iron technology; Pottery; Pastoralism; Agriculture; Livelihoods; Palaeoenvironments; Savannah; LandCover6k; Sustainable Development Goals; Land use
Divisions: Faculties > Social Sciences > School of Anthropology and Conservation
Faculties > Social Sciences > School of Anthropology and Conservation > DICE (Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology)
Depositing User: N.J. Deere
Date Deposited: 12 Apr 2018 11:13 UTC
Last Modified: 12 Apr 2018 11:28 UTC
Resource URI: https://kar.kent.ac.uk/id/eprint/66701 (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
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