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People and the Land through Time

Linking Ecology and History

Emily W. B. Russell

View Inside Price: $32.00

October 11, 1998
324 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
79 b/w illus.
ISBN: 9780300077308

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Out of Print

All ecosystems have a history of past human impacts, some obvious, others subtle, Emily Russell contends in this fascinating exploration of historical ecology. To understand the lingering consequences of human history on current ecosystems and landscapes, and conversely to understand the role that changing environments have played in human history, the author urges an interdisciplinary approach. Different disciplines working together can develop information that none alone can provide. History matters for all manner of ecological and environmental studies, both theoretical and applied, says Russell, and integration of these disciplines can assist us in dealing responsibly with our role in the biosphere.

People and the Land through Time begins with a discussion of three major sources of evidence that elucidate the history of an ecosystem: historical documents, field studies, and sedimentary records. The author then considers ways that people have affected the environment over time, using for examples a wide variety of habitats from all over the world. Some instances of human impact on the environment—such as using fire and altering species rangesare difficult to distinguish from nonhuman impacts. Others—such as agriculture and patterns of land ownership—are distinctly human. The book’s final section shows how a historical ecological approach deepens understanding of current environmental issues, including changes to lakes, loss of biodiversity, and sustainability of the biosphere.

Emily W. B. Russell is research associate professor, Department of Geological Sciences, at Rutgers University.

"By merging ecology and the history of human activity and drawing from diverse international examples, Russell defines an impressive approach for reading, interpreting, and managing natural landscapes."—David Foster, The Harvard Forest

"Russell's background in both ecology and history gives her unique authority. She is the one person who could write a book on this topic."—Thompson Webb III, Brown University

"I have been waiting for a book like this for a number of years. Russell makes an important contribution to the subject."—Charles Watkins, University of Nottingham

"People and the Land through Time provides students with an important perspective, integrating paleoecology, historical studies, and geographical techniques and addressing interdisciplinary questions concerning preservation of biodiversity, sustainability of ecosystems, and management of natural areas in the face of impending global climate change. Russell challenges us to use all available global climate change. Russell challenges us to use all available means to address these issues, to formulate plausible scenarios about the future consequences of past and present human activities."—Dr. Hazel R. Delcourt, Professor, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Tennessee, Knoxville

"Emily Russell has written a clear and concise commentary of the human imprint on ecological patterns. The book contains a wealth of practical information on kinds, sources and interpretations of historical documents and paleoecological records that ecologists need to know and use in order to understand ecological processes. People and the Land through Time is written in a style appealing not only to ecologists and historians but to all who are interested in the history of environments."—Grace Brush, Johns Hopkins University

"The book is intended for both the researcher and environmental manager."—John Sheail, Landscape Research

"An orderly march through this well-conceived book leads the serious student of historical ecology through a dazzling array of results of interdisciplinary research. The author's profound command of data from the natural and social sciences serves her well. Russell leads us on a compelling logical path from the importance of studying the history of ecosystems to an analysis of human impact on the biosphere. Using case studies, she demonstrates that the discipline of historical ecology enables scholars to come to grips with present day environmental issues. This is an impressive journey."—Victor B. Fisher, Western Historical Quarterly

"Russell has given a fine account of the physical and biotic process that, in conjunction with human activity, mold the landscape. . . . Russell's careful and insightful work invites cultural ecologists to collaborate with field ecologists such as herself to attain the fusion of perspectives that is the goal of historical ecology."—Carole L. Crumley, Environmental History

"Emily Russell's book will be a useful addition to the books on reserve for this class. It illustrates methodically and carefully the sorts of questions students should ask when they consider the history of a site and will help them think about what changes are likely to have occurred there throughout the period of human interaction with the land."—Phillip G. Terrie, Journal of American History

"People and the Land through Time is an important addition to ecological literature; a volume that everyone promoting a holistic understanding of the natural world, and seeking to preserve its integrity, would be well advised to read."—Garth C. Nelson, Canadian Field-Naturalist

"This volume is filled with useful and pertinent information that needed to be gathered in one place. As more and more ecologists are looking to the post-settlement record to explain many of our present-day ecosystems, this book moves us a considerable distance along that often tortuous road. . . . A very useful book."—Robert L. Burgess, Ecology

People and the Land through Time

Linking Ecology and History
Second Edition

Emily W. B. (Russell) Southgate

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