Antonia Reinhardt PhD-project:

Comparative Legacies of Human Land Use in the Brazilian Atlantic Forest

Tropical forests were long considered untouched barriers to human presence in the past. However, recent archaeological research indicates a long history of human occupation and management of these biodiverse habitats.
The importance of tropical cultural heritage for the development of more effective policies and conservation efforts in tropical forests around the world is well recognised. Nevertheless, comparative information on the long-term human history of tropical forests remains limited in many key regions. The project aims to understand how long-term human land-use has impacted the Brazilian Atlantic Forest, one of the most threatened tropical forests in the 21st century. Focusing on changes to its ecology, and associated earth systems, caused by human activity, it will capture the timing and extent of environmental changes. The project will produce a novel combination of demographic information, settlement data, and multi-proxy palaeoecological records to create the first deep time perspective on how humans have shaped the Atlantic Forest at a biome scale and to compare how different land use regimes have impacted the Atlantic Forest of southern and central Brazil over the long term. The comparative analysis of archaeological, historical and ecological knowledge will provide long-term land use and vegetation data for climate science, ecosystem restoration and policy goals to protect this important but threatened environment in the future. Beyond that, the project will also contribute to a better understanding of the synergies and trade-offs between land-use intensity and biodiversity in the Atlantic Forest.