BEACON TRANSCRIPT – People thought that the Amazonian rainforest is pristine. However, a team of researchers discovered that the ancient indigenous populations had quite a powerful impact on the forest. The tree species that the humans domesticated long time ago are still dominant in many areas.
Researchers declared that many species found in the Amazonian rainforest became abundant because the ancient people that populated the area before the arrival of the Europeans were the ones that planted them.
Some of these trees whose growing patterns were influenced by humans are the Brazil nut, cashew, acai palm, tucuma palm, cacao, caimito, and rubber.
Thus, researcher Hans ter Steege, forest community ecologist from the Naturalis Biodiversity Center in the Netherlands and the Free University of Amsterdam, declared that the rainforest was not at all as untouched as we thought it to be.
The researchers picked up data from 1,170 sites in the Amazon and looked at their tree compositions. Then, they compared them with maps of more than 3,000 archaeological sites of human settlements.
They discovered that 85 of the tree species they looked at were used by the indigenous people for nuts, fruits, building materials, or some other purposes. Over the past 8,000 years, these trees were five times more likely to become the dominant species in the Amazonian forest than the species the humans had not domesticated.
Those forests who had more domesticated tree species than others were the ones close to the pre-Columbian settlements. The entire Amazonian rainforest is one of the richest sanctuaries on Earth. It is situated in South America, with most of its surface on the Brazilian territory. It also occupies some areas in Peru, Colombia, Bolivia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Guyana, French Guyana, and Suriname.
Many of these tree species found in abundance played an important role in the ancient societies of the Amazon. At the time of the European conquest, five centuries ago, there were between 8 and 10 million people in the Amazon and they spoke more than 400 languages.
Humans played an important role in the development of trees in the Amazon. Either consciously and unconsciously, they influenced the vegetation around the places where they lived and they traveled. Thus, the Amazonian rainforest is not even half as pristine as we used to think.
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