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Time and complexity in historical ecology studies in the neotropical lowlands. based on a symposium held in new orleans, louisiana, october 2002. historical ecology series. edited by william l balé
Time and complexity in historical ecology studies in the neotropical lowlands. based on a symposium held in new orleans, louisiana, october 2002. historical ecology series. edited by william l balé
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Time and complexity in historical ecology studies in the neotropical lowlands. based on a symposium held in new orleans, louisiana, october 2002. historical ecology series. edited by william l balé

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  • 1. Time and Complexity in Historical Ecology: Studies in the Neotropical Lowlands. Based on a symposium held in New Orleans, Louisiana, October 2002. Historical Ecology Series. Edited by William L Balée and Clark L Erickson. Author(s): Emilio F Moran Source: The Quarterly Review of Biology, Vol. 82, No. 2, Contents (June 2007), p. 171 Published by: The University of Chicago Press Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/519634 . Accessed: 25/04/2011 23:14 Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use, available at . http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp. JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use provides, in part, that unless you have obtained prior permission, you may not download an entire issue of a journal or multiple copies of articles, and you may use content in the JSTOR archive only for your personal, non-commercial use. Please contact the publisher regarding any further use of this work. Publisher contact information may be obtained at . http://www.jstor.org/action/showPublisher?publisherCode=ucpress. . Each copy of any part of a JSTOR transmission must contain the same copyright notice that appears on the screen or printed page of such transmission. JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org. The University of Chicago Press is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to The Quarterly Review of Biology. http://www.jstor.org
  • 2. June 2007 171NEW BIOLOGICAL BOOKS throughout the country. As a professional forester, researcher, and frequent visitor to the national for- ests in Minnesota, I found the sections on those forests to be interesting, accurate, and informative. Howard M Hoganson, Forest Resources and North Central Research & Outreach Center, University of Minnesota, Grand Rapids, Minnesota Time and Complexity in Historical Ecology: Studies in the Neotropical Lowlands. Based on a symposium held in New Orleans, Louisiana, October 2002. Historical Ecology Series. Edited by William L Bale´e and Clark L Erickson. New York: Columbia University Press. $80.00. xiv ‫ם‬ 417 p; ill.; index. ISBN: 0-231-13562-9 (hc); 0-231- 50961-8 (e-book). 2006. This volume is the result of a symposium that was held in 2002. It includes 12 chapters that cover human-environment interactions in the New World Tropics—in particular, Mesoamerica, the Ecuadorian Andes, the desert coast of Peru, north- ern South America east of the Andes, and various regions in the Amazon Basin. Papers include those with a backward glance to prehistoric dynamics, and some look at contemporary populations. The editors try very hard to argue that what they are proposing (i.e., historical ecology) is a new re- search program, distinct from previous approaches. They suggest that their strategy is different from that of landscape ecology because they focus on how hu- man beings bring about changes in landscapes. They take a very strong position that there are no pristine environments but, rather, as soon as hu- mans enter into an environment, they make it into a human landscape, modified by human actions for human objectives. They argue strongly that human beings do not adapt to the physical conditions of the environment by modifying their population size and settlement size to initial environmental condi- tions. Rather, they propose that humans transform those constraints into negligible analytical phenom- ena through their modification of soils, drainage, cropping practices, and so on. Readers will find some very fine papers in this collection from an empirical perspective, and very good historical reconstructions (Neves and Peter- sen; Heckenberger), as well as interesting discus- sion of how local populations create diversity (Brondı´zio)—a central argument of the contribu- tors to this volume. However, others may find the three chapters in this volume (authored by the ed- itors) a bit tedious and largely unwarranted be- cause of their constant arguing for the irrelevance of other approaches and the superiority of histori- cal ecology as a research program. Few readers would quarrel with the importance of ecological studies becoming increasingly historical or that re- search needs to incorporate human agency in its analytical considerations. For example, we have al- ready begun to see the detailed historical exami- nation of land use at what later became Harvard Forest by Foster and Aber. Long-Term Ecological Research stations (LTERs) have begun to recon- struct the prebiological station land uses to better understand the factors that may have led to the vegetations studied since the creation of the LTERs in the 1970s. The editors dismiss cultural ecology, ecosystem ecology, adaptationist approaches, and systems ecology because they “ultimately . . . deny human agency” (p 4) in positively changing the environment over time. Although there are au- thors who surely do so, there is plenty of work using these approaches that does talk about the transfor- mative power of humans (e.g., P M Vitousek et al. 1997. Science 277(5325):494–499; E F Moran and E Ostrom. 2005. Seeing the Forest and the Trees: Human- Environment Interactions in Forest Ecosystems. Cam- bridge (MA): MIT Press). In short, the editors have created a cluster of “straw men” that they can treat dismissively, to highlight the uniqueness of their proposed research program. This was unnecessary, as there is evident merit in an approach that dis- cusses human-environment interactions over time and space. Few environmental anthropologists, ge- ographers, or ecologists would quarrel with this program. Most of us embrace and, indeed, practice it already—and it would be more productive to find ways to define the goals of the different approaches that surely vary and explain why we need more than one research program to understand human- environment interactions. This collection is a welcome addition to the growing number of studies that examine human- environment interactions. Its focus on prehistory and on how people have transformed plants, drain- age, soils, and animals to achieve their goals com- plements existing studies with a more contempo- rary focus, and with different emphases. Emilio F Moran, Anthropology and School for Pub- lic & Environmental Affairs, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana Plants on Islands: Diversity and Dynamics on a Continental Archipelago. By Martin L Cody. Berkeley (California): University of California Press. $49.95. x ‫ם‬ 259 p ‫ם‬ 25 pl; ill.; index. ISBN: 0-520-24729-9. 2006. From the 25 beautiful plates tucked into the center of this slim volume, I can imagine the more than 20 years of fun Martin Cody had in “zodiacking” around the countless beautiful islands in Barkley Sound of southwestern Vancouver Island. But Cody has “paid his dues” by summarizing the re-

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