, Volume 22, Issue 1 Supplement, pp 1-3
Date: 12 Sep 2007

Why history matters in landscape ecology

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The role of history in shaping the structure and functioning of ecosystems has become increasingly apparent to ecologists over the past decade (Christensen 1989; Foster et al. 2003). The legacy of past events—natural and anthropogenic—can reverberate through ecosystems for hundreds to thousands of years (Dupouey et al. 2002). These legacies often become drivers of ecosystem functioning otherwise hidden from a static view of landscapes in the present. While many of us realize that pervasive changes mean that the past cannot be a blueprint for the future, reconstructing these historical patterns and processes is key to understanding how present conditions came about, how ecosystems function, and in contributing to wise management and restoration decisions.
To reconstruct past conditions and uncover these hidden ecosystem drivers, ecologists are increasingly making use of various kinds of historical data sources, from pollen and tree rings to old land survey records, written accounts, cada...