(P72AB) Transforming Tropical Forests and Islands: Human Management of the Environments of the Philippine Archipelago in Long Time
Part 1Session 5
Thu 09:00-10:30 K10 | 3.05
Part 2Session 6
Thu 11:00-12:30 K10 | 3.05
- David Max Findley Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History
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A multidisciplinary approach to changing tropical land-use in the Philippine Archipelago – the PANTROPOCENE project
David Max Findley
Patrick Roberts Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History
Determination of pre-colonial and colonial period changes in tropical land-use has become a major area of interest for researchers pursuing the origins and tempo of the ‘anthropocene’. However, uneven distribution of archaeological, palaeoecological, and historical analysis across space and time has made it difficult to properly comprehend the varying scale and nature of the impacts of past human societies on tropical forests and their associated earth systems. Furthermore, there is a growing recognition that the roots of the 21st century ‘anthropocene’ are to be found in geographically variable political, social, and economic processes. Focusing on the centre of the Spanish East Indies, the Philippine Archipelago, the PANTROPOCENE project seeks to undertake novel archaeological, archaeobotanical, archaeozoological, environmental coring, remote sensing, and archival research to build more detailed insights into changing human-environment relationships over the last 2,000 years. Combining this multidisciplinary approach with climatic, geomorphological, and atmospheric modelling, the project will determine how changing technologies, economies, and administrations impacted tropical landcover and contingent regional earth systems. It is hoped that this work can provide a ‘usable past’ when considering the relative threat and pace of contemporary land-use changes in the 21st century, and in reconciling historically contingent economic and political challenges with the need to protect endemic biodiversity in Island Southeast Asia and the tropics more widely.
Inferring precolonial agriculture in Luzon Island (Philippines) through insect and weed ecology
Grace Barretto-Tesoro University of the Philippines
Vito Hernandez Flinders University
Luzon Island (Philippines) has vast lands that can sustain agriculture – mostly paddy fields planted to rice, corn, or sugar cane. Many of these paddy fields are found in coastal floodplains and basin catchments of Central Luzon, which has been considered the ‘rice basket’ of the Philippines since Spanish occupation. Depositional dynamics and land-use history in Central Luzon, however, make it difficult for archaeologists to find well-preserved evidence of precolonial agriculture. To resolve this issue and attain secure context for archaeological study, we sequenced soil and sedimentary stratigraphy from several excavations in Central Luzon’s coastal lowlands, which formed in the late Holocene (~4ka). The absence of agriculture-related artefacts brought us to focus on environmental archaeology proxies; in this case, macrobotanical and entomological remains securely dated to as early as ~1.6kBP. What we found reviewing their ecology was a strong suggestion that environmental change was strongly influenced by human agency; particularly, reclamation of mangrove and closed forest environments for agriculture.
Making a biodiversity hotspot? Tracing human footprints in Philippine montane rainforests
Rebecca Jenner Hamilton Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History
The long legacy of human land management in shaping ecosystems across the globe is widely discussed within academic circles. However, incorporation of ancient land-use practices, for instance long fallow swidden agriculture, into on-the-ground conservation management is still lacking. This is particularly the case within tropical ecosystems, including global biodiversity hotspots, which are often perceived as little-disturbed systems despite the growing body of evidence to suggest otherwise. A key reason for the incongruity between theory and conservation practice lies in the fact that human influence on forest composition and resilience (i.e. their capacity to resist- and recover from change) is hotly contested between the social and physical sciences, with conclusions typically drawn from disciplinary-siloed, short-term (i.e. multi-year) rather than long-term (i.e. decadal to millennial-scale) research. This paper draws on 4,500 year-long ecological and environmental data from lake sediments (Ambulalacao) extracted from the heart of the Philippine Cordillera rainforests in Luzon – a global biodiversity hotspot1 – to determine the extent to which traditional land-use, including swiddening, contributes to creating and maintaining the composition, floral diversity and resilience of upland tropical forests. The results will be incorporated with contemporary ethnographical data, and used as an evidence base to inform the conservation of resilient, high-value forests and the cultures that inhabit them both within the Philippine uplands, and within the global tropic forests more broadly.
Expansion Modeling and Dating the Ifugao Agricultural Terrace Systems: Volumetric Analysis and Energetic Modeling
Stephen Acabado University of California, Los Angeles
Establishing the origins and expansion of agricultural terraces is complicated due to the nature of its technological foundation and use. Several methods have been proposed to date agricultural features, but the issue of stratigraphic disturbance persists. In this paper, we highlight our work in the UNESCO-listed Ifugao Rice Terraces as a case study to address the limitations of model-free stratigraphy-based dating and also to serve as an example for future energetic studies that utilize 3D volumetric analysis. We present a methodology that incorporates multiple datasets, which include ethnohistorical, ethnographical, and spatial, to establish terrace construction sequence and development over time by assessing the amount of time, energy, and organization that would be required to create the modern landscape through remote sensing image classification and energetic reconstructions within 3D environments. Utilizing archaeological datasets acquired by the Ifugao Archaeological Project from four Ifugao sites and previous archaeological research in the region, we argue that wet-rice cultivation in the highlands of the Philippine Cordilleras is a recent phenomenon that coincided with contact with the Spanish, one that supports the argument that the emergence of wet-rice cultivation in the highland region was an indicator of influx of lowland populations avoiding the Spanish colonization.
Fire in the Colonial Forest: Pyro-human relationships and the nature of woodlands in the Philippines, 1565-1946.
Greg Bankoff University of Hull
This paper examines the role that anthropogenic fire has played in shaping the nature and extent of forests in the Philippines. It examines the relationship between fire, colonialisms and cultures and how the forest was shaped by interaction of human activities and natural forces. In particular, fire increasingly became a feature of the archipelago’s forests during the first four decades of the twentieth century. While it had always been there, the changes wrought by an expanding population clearing more land to feed a growing number of mouths and felling more trees in more efficient ways to supply demands that it was actively creating, brought not only anthropogenic fire to the tropical forest but created the ecological conditions where autogenic fire was more likely to be generated. In this sense, fire in the forests of the Philippines was a colonial construction and its suppression became a means of social engineering. While the forest remained an arena in which indigenous needs, state repression, scientific experiment and market demands played out, the contestation also took on an unusual form that some regard as a unique hallmark of American colonialism, education. Kaiñgineros had to be transformed into conservators of the forest, rangers had to be also teachers, shepherds of men as well as trees, and the forest had to be scientifically managed as well as felled, sawn and marketed to places near at hand and far away.
Historic Forests, Climates, and Land Use: Modelling Forest Cover in the Colonial Philippines, 1565-1898.
David Max Findley Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History
Models of historic forest cover and anthropogenic land use are essential for increasing the precision of historic climate models and understandings of human-environment interactions in the past. Although historic climate models aim to incorporate research from archaeology and history, models’ utility to these disciplines is contested. In particular, existing models have struggled to adequately reflect the diversity and complexity of cultural factors impacting historic forest cover, a problem that is amplified when models are applied to the recent past (~1500 CE to the present) when human alteration of landscapes is known to have accelerated. Informed by these challenges, this paper presents an approach for assessing historic land use and deforestation in the Philippine archipelago just prior to, and during, the Spanish colonial period (1565-1898). It adapts a modelling method developed by archaeologists to emphasize the cultural aspects of land use, “Circle Diagrams”, and discusses the application of these diagrams to two sites located in contemporary Ifugao Province (Luzon) and Cebu Island (the Visayas). Through these case studies, the paper discusses the how historians improve models and how models contribute to historical research. It focuses on the challenges of adapting Circle Diagrams to historians’ disciplinary needs, integrating archival material into datasheets, and the value of land use modelling for discussing deforestation.
The tropical forests of the Philippines have played a fundamental role in the character of the archipelago for millennia, providing sustenance and resources to indigenous peoples and offering high quality resources for commerce and construction. Now, their increasing absence as a result of mass-deforestation quickens erosion and amplifies the vulnerability of the islands to storms, landslides, and nutrient depletion. A straightforward narrative of accelerating and capacious environmental devastation coincides with ‘Anthropocene’ tropes, but also unconsciously advances a myth of the pristine and ancient forest prior to the industrial era. The forests of the Philippines archipelago and their veritable bounties of
endemic flora and fauna have experienced anthropogenic manipulation and exploitation since at least 2,500-2,000 BCE, when agriculture first arrived in the Philippines. From the selective cultivation of various plant species by nomadic peoples to the practice of swidden agriculture in permanent settlements, from the construction of vessels from molave to the mass clearing of forests inspired by regional and global market demand, the character of Philippine forests has been altered and maintained by humans. Studying how these forests have transformed in the previous four millennia requires interdisciplinary collaboration that utilizes palaeobotanical, archaeological, and archival data. This panel draws upon case studies in
history and archaeology to focus on moments of change and transition, when shifting anthropogenic demands and knowledge of forests prompted local and ultimately regional ecological transformations. By exploring this socio-environmental relationship over the longterm, from the beginnings of agriculture in the archipelago through the proto-historic and colonial periods, this panel will take a first step towards contextualizing twenty-first century Philippine deforestation within the larger story of how humans actively modify tropical forests they inhabit to meet their biological and commercial needs.