Ancient human disturbances may be skewing our understanding of Amazonian forests ($)

ancientamazoniaThe Amazonian forest is an enormous and crucial ecosystem that encompasses a huge proportion of Earth’s biodiversity and stored carbon. By overlaying maps showing forest inventory plots and sites of ancient human impact, McMichael et al. observe that the inventoried plots from which we draw conclusions about forest composition and dynamics may be skewed towards places that have been sites of ancient human impact; for example, both are biased towards accessible regions of forest near waterways. This overlap may skew our assumptions about “undisturbed” forest, as many studied sites may only be a tree generation or two into succession. The authors argue that the location of future study sites in Amazonia and other forests should take into consideration whether these sites were affected by ancient human impacts. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 10.1073/pnas.1614577114