A Natural Origin of the Commons: Interactions of People, Animals and Invisible Biodiversity

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Abstract

The first people to occupy these shores used the landscape as a common resource and had an influence in the developing countryside. That there were open areas is now widely accepted and that some areas may always have remained permanently open. In many cases, these open areas must have been the easiest and first to be occupied by man to become the original ‘waste’ or common land. Man, grazing animals, fire and hurricanes have always been considered some of the factors in the creation and development of open areas. However, drawing on evidence from various sources perhaps we should review whether fire and wind had such a significant role as large-scale landscape drivers in wooded areas. Apart from a few examples, pests and diseases have until now been largely left out of the debate but how can we continue to ignore the history and effects of say the Black Death, rinderpest, myxomatosis, phytophthoras and other invisible organisms in natural processes that influence and change the landscape over large areas.