Science Daily reports on a recent study by Baylor University geology researchers that shows it was prehistoric American Indians, not Europeans, who had dramatically reshaped the eastern North American landscape and floodplain.
The study, which was published in the online journal Geology, addresses the belief that it was colonial land-use practices, like plowing, damming, and deforestation, that influenced our present day hydrological systems across the eastern part of North America. Earlier studies had suggested that it was American Indian land use that initially remade the hydrological systems, but little evidence had been provided.
The Baylor study is the first to offer clear evidence that it was prehistoric American Indian land use that impacted the hydrological systems. “Small-scale agricultural societies caused widespread ecological change and increased sedimentation in hydrologic systems during the Medieval Climate Anomaly-Little Ice Age, which occurred about 700 to 1,000 years ago,” ScienceDaily reports.
“The findings conclusively demonstrate that Native Americans in eastern North America impacted their environment well before the arrival of Europeans,” Gary Stinchcomb, a Baylor doctoral candidate who conducted the study, told ScienceDaily. “Through their agricultural practices, Native Americans increased soil erosion and sediment yields to the Delaware River basin.”
The study found that the prehistoric Indians decreased forest cover to “reorient their settlements and intensify corn production.”
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