Wednesday, September 03, 2008

‘Pristine’ environments and sustainability
Pueblo La Plata didn’t look like much — a low rise of rubble where dwellings once stood, housing perhaps up to 50 people. Archaeologists figured the first inhabitants arrived about AD 1200. Block the rubble pile from view, however, and the modest mesa top in Agua Fria National Monument, just north of Phoenix looked, well, natural.

Until Arizona State University archaeologist Katherine Spielmann pointed to the stones around the base of the handful of agave plants that dotted the mesa top. The plants were scattered among grasses and other low-lying shrubs.

. . .

If one has conservation in mind, which iteration of the site’s ecosystem is the goal? It’s the classic “baseline” problem in which the “pristine” landscape today could instead be landscape Version 50.0, “upgraded” by successive episodes of human intervention over hundreds or thousands of years.

Slightly different take on the rainforest story from a while back.