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Testing the hypothesis of fire use for ecosystem management by neanderthal and upper palaeolithic modern human populations.

Daniau AL, d'Errico F, Sánchez Goñi MF - PLoS ONE (2010)

Bottom Line: It has been proposed that a greater control and more extensive use of fire was one of the behavioral innovations that emerged in Africa among early Modern Humans, favouring their spread throughout the world and determining their eventual evolutionary success.Results indicate that fire regime follows the Dansgaard-Oeschger climatic variability and its impacts on fuel load.No major disturbance in natural fire regime variability is observed at the time of the arrival of Modern Humans in Europe or during the remainder of the Upper Palaeolithic (40-10 kyr cal BP).

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: EPHE, CNRS UMR5805, EPOC, Université Bordeaux 1, Talence, France. al.daniau@bristol.ac.uk

ABSTRACT

Background: It has been proposed that a greater control and more extensive use of fire was one of the behavioral innovations that emerged in Africa among early Modern Humans, favouring their spread throughout the world and determining their eventual evolutionary success. We would expect, if extensive fire use for ecosystem management were a component of the modern human technical and cognitive package, as suggested for Australia, to find major disturbances in the natural biomass burning variability associated with the colonisation of Europe by Modern Humans.

Methodology/principal findings: Analyses of microcharcoal preserved in two deep-sea cores located off Iberia and France were used to reconstruct changes in biomass burning between 70 and 10 kyr cal BP. Results indicate that fire regime follows the Dansgaard-Oeschger climatic variability and its impacts on fuel load. No major disturbance in natural fire regime variability is observed at the time of the arrival of Modern Humans in Europe or during the remainder of the Upper Palaeolithic (40-10 kyr cal BP).

Conclusions/significance: Results indicate that either Neanderthals and Modern humans did not influence fire regime or that, if they did, their respective influence was comparable at a regional scale, and not as pronounced as that observed in the biomass burning history of Southeast Asia.

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Related in: MedlinePlus

Average surface area of microcharcoal concentration (Average CCsurf) of core MD95-2042 versus average biomass index (Average biomass index) for each Greenland Interstadial (GI) and Stadial (GS) including Heinrich Stadials (HSs).LGM: Last Glacial Maximum. The biomass index for core MD95-2042 is determined by the sum of pollen percentages of Ericaceae and open Mediterranean forest. MH: Modern Humans, Neand: Neanderthals. The confidence ellipsoid at 95% is reported for each GI, GS and HS.
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pone-0009157-g003: Average surface area of microcharcoal concentration (Average CCsurf) of core MD95-2042 versus average biomass index (Average biomass index) for each Greenland Interstadial (GI) and Stadial (GS) including Heinrich Stadials (HSs).LGM: Last Glacial Maximum. The biomass index for core MD95-2042 is determined by the sum of pollen percentages of Ericaceae and open Mediterranean forest. MH: Modern Humans, Neand: Neanderthals. The confidence ellipsoid at 95% is reported for each GI, GS and HS.

Mentions: Concentrations of microcharcoal surface area (CCsurf) in core MD95-2042 (figure 2.1) reveal that the evolution of fire regime in Southwestern Iberia was in phase with vegetation shifts between GIs and GSs. High fire regime (see materials and methods for a definition) was contemporaneous with relatively warm and wet climatic phases (GIs), characterised by the development of an open Mediterranean forest and heathland. Low fire regime is observed during cold and dry climatic phases (GS including HS) characterised by semi-desert vegetation (Artemisia, Chenopodiaceae, Ephedra) [68]. As total plant biomass in forest and heathland communities is generally higher than open ground formations [69], these changes indicate the association of increased biomass accumulation with higher fire regime. CCsurf and biomass index, as reflected in the sum of arboreal Mediterranean taxa and heathland percentages, are strongly correlated (figure 3) and best fits a logarithmic function (b = 0.79, P<0.0001). This pattern indicates that in this region fuel availability, determined by climatically driven variations in vegetation biomass, is the main factor behind fire regime variation.


Testing the hypothesis of fire use for ecosystem management by neanderthal and upper palaeolithic modern human populations.

Daniau AL, d'Errico F, Sánchez Goñi MF - PLoS ONE (2010)

Average surface area of microcharcoal concentration (Average CCsurf) of core MD95-2042 versus average biomass index (Average biomass index) for each Greenland Interstadial (GI) and Stadial (GS) including Heinrich Stadials (HSs).LGM: Last Glacial Maximum. The biomass index for core MD95-2042 is determined by the sum of pollen percentages of Ericaceae and open Mediterranean forest. MH: Modern Humans, Neand: Neanderthals. The confidence ellipsoid at 95% is reported for each GI, GS and HS.
© Copyright Policy
Related In: Results  -  Collection

Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC2820084&req=5

pone-0009157-g003: Average surface area of microcharcoal concentration (Average CCsurf) of core MD95-2042 versus average biomass index (Average biomass index) for each Greenland Interstadial (GI) and Stadial (GS) including Heinrich Stadials (HSs).LGM: Last Glacial Maximum. The biomass index for core MD95-2042 is determined by the sum of pollen percentages of Ericaceae and open Mediterranean forest. MH: Modern Humans, Neand: Neanderthals. The confidence ellipsoid at 95% is reported for each GI, GS and HS.
Mentions: Concentrations of microcharcoal surface area (CCsurf) in core MD95-2042 (figure 2.1) reveal that the evolution of fire regime in Southwestern Iberia was in phase with vegetation shifts between GIs and GSs. High fire regime (see materials and methods for a definition) was contemporaneous with relatively warm and wet climatic phases (GIs), characterised by the development of an open Mediterranean forest and heathland. Low fire regime is observed during cold and dry climatic phases (GS including HS) characterised by semi-desert vegetation (Artemisia, Chenopodiaceae, Ephedra) [68]. As total plant biomass in forest and heathland communities is generally higher than open ground formations [69], these changes indicate the association of increased biomass accumulation with higher fire regime. CCsurf and biomass index, as reflected in the sum of arboreal Mediterranean taxa and heathland percentages, are strongly correlated (figure 3) and best fits a logarithmic function (b = 0.79, P<0.0001). This pattern indicates that in this region fuel availability, determined by climatically driven variations in vegetation biomass, is the main factor behind fire regime variation.

Bottom Line: It has been proposed that a greater control and more extensive use of fire was one of the behavioral innovations that emerged in Africa among early Modern Humans, favouring their spread throughout the world and determining their eventual evolutionary success.Results indicate that fire regime follows the Dansgaard-Oeschger climatic variability and its impacts on fuel load.No major disturbance in natural fire regime variability is observed at the time of the arrival of Modern Humans in Europe or during the remainder of the Upper Palaeolithic (40-10 kyr cal BP).

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: EPHE, CNRS UMR5805, EPOC, Université Bordeaux 1, Talence, France. al.daniau@bristol.ac.uk

ABSTRACT

Background: It has been proposed that a greater control and more extensive use of fire was one of the behavioral innovations that emerged in Africa among early Modern Humans, favouring their spread throughout the world and determining their eventual evolutionary success. We would expect, if extensive fire use for ecosystem management were a component of the modern human technical and cognitive package, as suggested for Australia, to find major disturbances in the natural biomass burning variability associated with the colonisation of Europe by Modern Humans.

Methodology/principal findings: Analyses of microcharcoal preserved in two deep-sea cores located off Iberia and France were used to reconstruct changes in biomass burning between 70 and 10 kyr cal BP. Results indicate that fire regime follows the Dansgaard-Oeschger climatic variability and its impacts on fuel load. No major disturbance in natural fire regime variability is observed at the time of the arrival of Modern Humans in Europe or during the remainder of the Upper Palaeolithic (40-10 kyr cal BP).

Conclusions/significance: Results indicate that either Neanderthals and Modern humans did not influence fire regime or that, if they did, their respective influence was comparable at a regional scale, and not as pronounced as that observed in the biomass burning history of Southeast Asia.

Show MeSH
Related in: MedlinePlus