Native American depopulation, reforestation, and fire regimes in the Southwest United States, 1492–1900 CE

  title={Native American depopulation, reforestation, and fire regimes in the Southwest United States, 1492–1900 CE},
  author={Matthew J Liebmann and Joshua Farella and Christopher I. Roos and Adam Stack and Sarah J. Martini and Thomas W. Swetnam},
  journal={Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences},
  pages={E696 - E704}
Significance Debates about the magnitude, tempo, and ecological effects of Native American depopulation after 1492 CE constitute some of the most contentious issues in American Indian history. Was population decline rapid and catastrophic, with effects extensive enough to change even the earth’s atmosphere? Or was depopulation more moderate, with indigenous numbers declining slowly after European colonization? Through a study of archaeology and dendrochronology, we conclude that neither of… Expand

Figures and Tables from this paper

Human–vegetation interactions during the Holocene in North America
Between the initial colonization of North America and the European settlement period, Indigenous American land use practices shaped North American landscapes and ecosystems, but a critical questionExpand
Indigenous impacts on North American Great Plains fire regimes of the past millennium
It is indicated that relatively small, mobile human populations can impact natural fire regimes, even in pyrogeographic settings in which climate exerts strong, top-down controls on fuels. Expand
Archaeological investigations of the effects of anthropogenic fire on the subsistence economies of small-scale societies, particularly those of the prehispanic northern American Southwest, areExpand
Dendro-archeo-ecology in North America and Europe: Re-purposing Historical Materials to Study Ancient Human-Environment Interactions
The unique position of dendrochronology at the nexus of archeology, ecology, and climatology allows it to play a pivotal role in the study of past human-environment interactions. Yet, few tree-ringExpand
Human influences superseded climate to disrupt the 20th century fire regime in Jasper National Park, Canada
Abstract To enhance understanding of how climate and humans influenced historical fire occurrence in the montane forests of Jasper National Park, we crossdated fire-scar and tree age samples from 172Expand
Multiscale perspectives of fire, climate and humans in western North America and the Jemez Mountains, USA
This work reconstruct and analyse effects of high human population densities in forests of the Jemez Mountains, New Mexico from ca 1300 CE to Present to show reduction of widespread fires owing to reduction of fuel continuity emerges as a hallmark of extensive human impacts on past forests and fire regimes. Expand
Earth system impacts of the European arrival and Great Dying in the Americas after 1492
Human impacts prior to the Industrial Revolution are not well constrained. We investigate whether the decline in global atmospheric CO2 concentration by 7–10 ppm in the late 1500s and early 1600sExpand
Legacies of Indigenous land use shaped past wildfire regimes in the Basin-Plateau Region, USA
Climatic conditions exert an important influence on wildfire activity in the western United States; however, Indigenous farming activity may have also shaped the local fire regimes for millennia. TheExpand
Out of the Ashes: Ecological Resilience to Extreme Wildfire, Prescribed Burns, and Indigenous Burning in Ecosystems
Until Euro-American colonization, Indigenous people used fire to modify eco-cultural systems, developing robust Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK). Since 1980, wildfire activity has increased dueExpand
Dating the origins of persistent oak shrubfields in northern New Mexico using soil charcoal and dendrochronology
Megafires in dry conifer forests of the Southwest US are driving transitions to alternative vegetative states, including extensive shrubfields dominated by Gambel oak (Quercus gambelii). RecentExpand


Virgin Soils Revisited
European arrival in the Americas was one of the most shocking demographic events of the last millennium. Indian populations declined by as much as 95 percent in the first century after the arrival ofExpand
The Columbian Encounter and the Little Ice Age: Abrupt Land Use Change, Fire, and Greenhouse Forcing
Pre-Columbian farmers of the Neotropical lowlands numbered an estimated 25 million by 1492, with at least 80 percent living within forest biomes. It is now well established that significant areas ofExpand
Effects of syn-pandemic fire reduction and reforestation in the tropical Americas on atmospheric CO2 during European conquest
Abstract A new reconstruction of Late Holocene biomass burning in the tropical Americas is consistent with the expansion of fire use by Mesoamerican and Amazonian agriculturalists and a subsequentExpand
Neotropical human–landscape interactions, fire, and atmospheric CO2 during European conquest
Neotropical biomass burning reconstructions synthesized from soil and sedimentary charcoal records indicate a period of reduced biomass burning sustained for several centuries after ~500 cal. yr BP.Expand
Amazonia and the Anthropocene: What was the spatial extent and intensity of human landscape modification in the Amazon Basin at the end of prehistory?
The nature and spatial scale of prehistoric human landscape modifications in Amazonia are enduring questions. Original conceptions of the issues by archaeologists published more than 40 years agoExpand
Long-term perspective on wildfires in the western USA
Sedimentary charcoal accumulation rates are used to construct long-term variations in fire during the past 3,000 y in the American West and compare this record to independent fire-history data from historical records and fire scars, which show a forest “fire deficit” attributable to the combined effects of human activities, ecological, and climate changes. Expand
Traditional fire-use, landscape transition, and the legacies of social theory past
It is suggested that a more theoretically cognizant historical fire ecology should strive to operationalize transdisciplinary theory capable of addressing the role of human variability in the evolutionary history of landscapes. Expand
Evidence for the Postconquest Demographic Collapse of the Americas in Historical CO2 Levels
Abstract This article promotes the hypothesis that the massive demographic collapse of the native populations of the Americas triggered by the European colonization brought about the abandonment ofExpand
Pueblo Population Movements, Abandonment and Settlement Change in Sixteenth and Seventeenth Century New Mexico
ABSTRACT Spanish colonization of the northern Southwest in the seventeenth century coincided with extensive abandonment of large Pueblo villages. This period of abandonment has been conventionallyExpand
Tree-Ring Reconstructions of Fire and Climate History in the Sierra Nevada and Southwestern United States
Most of the fire history research conducted in the past century has focused on case studies and local-scale assessments of pattern and process, with an emphasis on describing typical fire frequenciesExpand