The findings are published in a paper titled "Holocene fire and occupation in Amazonia: records from two lake districts" that appears in a recent issue of Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences. Bush says this paper, and another forthcoming in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, have important policy implications.
That's because the hypothesis of human-manufactured landscapes has been made popular by Charles Mann’s book - 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus ?and could influence conservation policy in the Americas. That millions of people once populated the Americas, and that in Amazonia, at least, the rainforest is the product of long term human use, has been used as farmers and loggers as justification for clearcutting rainforests. Their argument, that the ecosystem already experienced vast landscape disturbance and proved resilient, relies on the ubiquitous influence of Pre-Columbian people, the suggestion that Bush’s work rejects.
"These data are directly relevant to the resilience of Amazonian conservation, as they do not support the contention that all of Amazonia is a 'built landscape' and therefore a product of past human land use," Bush says. "Most archaeologists are buying into the argument that you had big populations that transformed the landscape en masse. Another group of archaeologists say that transformation was very much limited to river corridors, and if you went away from the river corridors there wasn't that much impact. That's what our findings tend to support."
Bush doesn't expect that his new findings will settle the debate, however.
"There's just too much passion on this issue. People who are inclined to believe what we're talking about will say this is very strong evidence, and say 'let's have more.' The archaeologists will say this study only examines two districts."<