Tuesday, March 22, 2011

American Indians and the Landscape

Two new studies this week emphasize the impact that Indians have had on the American landscape. One shows that Indian farming along the Delaware River led to increased erosion of slopes and increased deposition of silt on floodplains between 700 and 1000 years ago. Another shows that the tree islands that dot the Everglades, known for their extraordinary biological richness and their key role in the Everglades ecosystem, formed from Indian shell middens. The middens date back as far as 5,000 years, and in some cases there is nothing left of the shells but excess carbonate in the soil.

Wherever people go, we reshape the land. Sometimes this is intentional, but equally often it is an accidental byproduct of the ways we choose to live.

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