Reconstruction of Anthropogenic Land-Cover Change for Middle America, 1500 CE

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This project demonstrates how to use existing syntheses of many decades of historical social science research to produce empirically derived land-use maps in a GIS for large regions for a specific target year at a resolution appropriate to the calibration of existing anthropogenic land-cover change (ALCC) models. Disagreement among the outputs of various ALCC models results from differing estimates of population and assumptions about how much food a given population requires and the productivity per unit area of various types of cropping systems. The resulting ALCC model output of the spatial distribution of land uses at a given time becomes input for climate models, which thereby incorporate those uncertainties. To address the issue at a global scale, the LandCover6k working group of PAGES (Past Global Changes), has undertaken an international effort to empirically calibrate the HYDE ALCC model. This report on a contribution to that effort employs empirical data from previously published scholarship in geography, anthropology, and archaeology on the land use of Middle America centered on a target year of 1500 CE. Maps from those sources were digitized and georeferenced in a GIS (Geographic Information System) and used to digitize polygons in which each category of land use is known to have occurred during late precolonial and early colonial times, centered on the target year. The land-use typology used was agreed on at the first, 2015 LandCover6k meeting and includes five top-level categories: Pastoral; Urban and Extractive; Hunting, Fishing, and Gathering; No land Use; and Agriculture. This project further includes a dozen Agricultural subcategories specifically appropriate to Middle America in 1500 CE: agroforestry; orchards and orchard gardens; shifting cultivation; short-fallow cultivation; sloping-field terraces; bench terraces; cross-channel terraces; subsurface irrigation; floodwater irrigation; canal irrigation; recessional cultivation; and intensive wetland fields. The results are presented and discussed as sixteen GIS screenshots.

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Advances in Environmental and Engineering Research



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