Topic ID #20277 - posted 6/2/2012 1:26 AM

Even Early Human Hands Left Prominent Ecological Footprints

Jennifer Palmer

Even Early Human Hands Left Prominent Ecological Footprints

ScienceDaily (June 1, 2012) — Early human activity has left a greater footprint on today's ecosystem than previously thought, say researchers working at the University of Pittsburgh and in the multidisciplinary Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) Network, created by the National Science Foundation to conduct long time scale research on ecological issues that span huge geographical areas. Highlighted in the June issue of BioScience, the Pitt/LTER collaboration shows how historic human actions caused changes in nature that continue to reverberate throughout present-day ecosystems.

In the article, researchers take a retrospective look at the impact of human activity on LTER Network sites spanning states from Georgia to New Hampshire and propose methods for measuring the effects of such activity. The study of legacy effects is important because it provides insights into how today's actions can affect tomorrow's ecological systems, says Daniel Bain, coprincipal investigator at the Baltimore Ecosystem Study LTER Network site and an assistant professor in the Department of Geology and Planetary Science in Pitt's Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences. Bain notes that decision makers at all levels, including those creating policy, need historical information about ecosystems to make more effective environmental policies. In a democracy, says Bain, a diverse group of stakeholders -- such as outdoor enthusiasts like Trout Unlimited, fiscal watchdog groups such as Common Cause, and individual landowners -- needs this kind of data to effectively engage in the management of common resources.

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