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      The Importance of Soil on Human Taphonomy and Management of Portuguese Public Cemeteries

      , , , , ,
      Forensic Sciences
      MDPI AG

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          Abstract

          Cemeteries from the European Romantic period (18th–19th centuries) are often compared to small cities that hold memories, art, and history. Portuguese public cemeteries were first established in 1835 and became an interesting combination of fauna, flora, and monumental sculptures to mourn the dead at a location outside the limits of the city. Over the past 187 years, laws have been created and amended taking into consideration the needs of the population and the scientific knowledge available at each time point in history. Nevertheless, cemeteries have long been struggling with the lack of burial space which has been emphasised during the two years of the COVID pandemic. This work aims to review the development of Portuguese public cemeteries since their establishment, highlighting the imposed measures for the inhumation and exhumation of the deceased. It will also discuss the importance of soil as an abiotic agent, focusing on eight specific soil properties and their significance on the characterisation of graves. It is expected that a better understanding of the impact of soil on human taphonomy supports the role of city halls in managing public cemeteries, particularly the lack of burial space.

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          Cadaver decomposition in terrestrial ecosystems.

          A dead mammal (i.e. cadaver) is a high quality resource (narrow carbon:nitrogen ratio, high water content) that releases an intense, localised pulse of carbon and nutrients into the soil upon decomposition. Despite the fact that as much as 5,000 kg of cadaver can be introduced to a square kilometre of terrestrial ecosystem each year, cadaver decomposition remains a neglected microsere. Here we review the processes associated with the introduction of cadaver-derived carbon and nutrients into soil from forensic and ecological settings to show that cadaver decomposition can have a greater, albeit localised, effect on belowground ecology than plant and faecal resources. Cadaveric materials are rapidly introduced to belowground floral and faunal communities, which results in the formation of a highly concentrated island of fertility, or cadaver decomposition island (CDI). CDIs are associated with increased soil microbial biomass, microbial activity (C mineralisation) and nematode abundance. Each CDI is an ephemeral natural disturbance that, in addition to releasing energy and nutrients to the wider ecosystem, acts as a hub by receiving these materials in the form of dead insects, exuvia and puparia, faecal matter (from scavengers, grazers and predators) and feathers (from avian scavengers and predators). As such, CDIs contribute to landscape heterogeneity. Furthermore, CDIs are a specialised habitat for a number of flies, beetles and pioneer vegetation, which enhances biodiversity in terrestrial ecosystems.
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            A framework for classifying and quantifying the natural capital and ecosystem services of soils

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              Review of human decomposition processes in soil

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                Author and article information

                Contributors
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                Journal
                Forensic Sciences
                Forensic Sciences
                MDPI AG
                2673-6756
                December 2022
                September 29 2022
                : 2
                : 4
                : 635-649
                Article
                10.3390/forensicsci2040047
                0a5be80d-5f57-4fbd-bc4d-4d4749715496
                © 2022

                https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

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