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Historic fuel wood use in the Galápagos Islands: identification of charred remains


Charcoal fragments from five historic campsite locations in the Galápagos Islands were identified and radiocarbon dated to investigate postulated early human presence in the archipelago, historic fuel wood collection patterns and the resultant impact on native vegetation. A variety of taxa and fuel types were revealed to be present in the charcoal assemblages, indicating geographically driven rather than species-specific methods of collection. Historic anthropogenic impact was therefore spread amongst woody taxa in the lowland plant communities, with severity dependent on proximity to campsite location. All charred remains were found to date from within the historic period, supporting the preponderance of archaeological evidence indicating that human presence did not begin in Galápagos until after European discovery.

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This research was funded by the UK Natural Environment Research Council (grant NE/C510667/1 awarded to K.J. Willis and C.A. Froyd) and by the Australian Research Council (grant DP0449560 awarded to S.G. Haberle and A.J. Anderson). The authors would like to thank the Charles Darwin Research Station and the Galápagos National Park Service for their support of the project. The research was carried out under Autorizacion No. 002.SRL.INPC.2005 issued by the Instituto Nacional Patrimonio Cultural, Ecuador, to whom thanks are also due We gratefully acknowledge the contributions of additional archaeological colleagues in the 2005 expedition; Rosanne Anderson, Helene Martinsson-Wallin, Karen Stothert, Paul Wallin and César Vientamille and also Julia Sonsin Oliveira for assistance in charcoal identification. We would like to thank Pim van der Knaap, Alan Tye and an anonymous reviewer for their helpful comments on the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Cynthia A. Froyd.

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Communicated by F. Bittmann.

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Froyd, C.A., Lee, J.A., Anderson, A.J. et al. Historic fuel wood use in the Galápagos Islands: identification of charred remains. Veget Hist Archaeobot 19, 207–217 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00334-010-0239-1

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  • Galápagos Islands
  • Human impact
  • Charcoal
  • Wood identification