Regional Environmental Change

, Volume 6, Issue 1–2, pp 1–16 | Cite as

Human–environment interactions: learning from the past

  • J. A. DearingEmail author
  • R. W. Battarbee
  • R. Dikau
  • I. Larocque
  • F. Oldfield


The analysis of palaeoenvironmental archives—sediments, archaeological remains, tree-rings, documents and instrumental records—is presented as a key element in the global scientific endeavour aimed at understanding human–environment interactions at the present day and in the future. The paper explains the need for the focus on palaeoenvironmental studies as a means of ‘learning from the past’, and presents the rationale and structure of the IGBP-PAGES Focus 5 programme ‘Past Ecosystem Processes and Human–Environment Interactions’. The past, as described through palaeoenvironmental studies, can yield information about pre-impact states, trajectories of recent change, causation, complex system behaviour, and provide the basis for developing and testing simulation models. Learning from the past in each of these epistemological categories is exemplified with published case-studies.


PAGES Focus 5 Human–environment interactions Palaeoenvironmental reconstruction Sustainability 



The authors wish to thank Prof. Dr Wolfgang Cramer for the opportunity to publish in Regional Environmental Change; to the organisers of INQUA 2003 in Reno; and to PAGES for financial support. John Dearing is also grateful to Prof. Elisabeth Vergès and the Université de l’Orléans for providing a visiting professorship during which time the editing was completed.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. A. Dearing
    • 1
    Email author
  • R. W. Battarbee
    • 2
  • R. Dikau
    • 3
  • I. Larocque
    • 4
  • F. Oldfield
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of GeographyUniversity of LiverpoolLiverpoolUK
  2. 2.Environmental Change Research CentreUniversity College LondonLondonUK
  3. 3.Department of GeographyUniversity of BonnBonnGermany
  4. 4.INRS-ETEQuebecCanada

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