Today many believe that humans are the greatest scourge for nature. While there is no shortage of arguments to support this belief, a large international study recently showed that humans were not always bad for nature. Furthermore, there would have been a time when we would have lived in harmony with Mother Nature, even if the presence of our ancestors had already implied a major change in the surface of the earth.
Humans changed ¾ the earth 10,000 years ago
This study, published in PNAS, combines diverse sciences such as geography, archeology and ecology. It mainly aims to highlight the idea or belief that humans and nature are two separate and incompatible concepts.
Indeed, the researchers discovered that humans lived in equilibrium with the earth for most of their existence on the planet. Erle Ellis, an environmental systems scientist at the University of Maryland, said, “Societies have used their landscapes to preserve most of their natural biodiversity, and even to increase their biodiversity, productivity, and land use.”
In addition, it would have been a long time since man was on earth. Longer than scientific research has previously estimated. In fact, James Watson, a conservation researcher at the University of Queensland, found that most of the land on earth was shaped by humans 12,000 years ago, including over 95% of temperate land and 90% of tropical forests. In 10,000 years before our era, humans would have changed almost three quarters of the earth’s surface, reports Science Alert.
In the end, natural areas aren’t that natural
Previous research had shown that most of the land was uninhabited for 1500 years after Christ. However, we now know that this is wrong. These changes had cascading ecological consequences, including negative impacts such as the megafauna extinction, according to an interactive map of the discoveries made by scientists.
In the end, natural areas aren’t that natural. Photo credit: Shutterstock / Pasko Maksim
However, this human presence has also performed important ecological functions such as spreading seeds, improving soil nutrients, expanding habitats for animal and plant species, and increasing biodiversity. As James Watson explains, the lands currently labeled “natural”, “untouched” and “wild” already have “a long history of human use”.
Researchers claim that human activity is not in itself harmful to the earth
The researchers also found that ancient people developed strategies like planting, domestication of animals, and managing ecosystems to make the landscape productive and biodiverse. Archaeologist Nicole Boivin from the Max Planck Institute says the study shows “a close correlation between areas with high biodiversity and areas that have long been occupied by indigenous and traditional peoples”. She continues:
“The problem is not human activity per se, but the type of land use we see in industrial societies – characterized by unsustainable agricultural practices, limitless extraction and appropriation. We need to recognize that certain types of human activity – especially the more traditional land management practices that we see in archaeological records or that are practiced today by many indigenous peoples – actually support biodiversity. We need to encourage and strengthen this. “”