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      Urbanism and Anthropogenic Landscapes

      1 , 2
      Annual Review of Anthropology
      Annual Reviews

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          Abstract

          Humans consistently modify their environments—both directly and indirectly. However, the linkage between human activity and anthropogenic landscapes intensifies in urban situations. The artificial landscapes and dense concentrations of human populations encountered in urban environments create a centripetal pull for resources that results in continual and distant landscape changes, thus inextricably linking urbanism and anthropogenic landscapes. Examining past and present patterns of urban settlement and environmental impact provides context for this symbiotic relationship. Archaeological data, methodology, and technology offer insight into the similarities and variations in urban anthropogenic landscapes across time and space, suggesting that ancient practices can be compared with contemporary ones and that ancient models may have applicability for future-focused urban planning.

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          The Foucault Effect

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            The human dimension of fire regimes on Earth

            Humans and their ancestors are unique in being a fire-making species, but ‘natural’ (i.e. independent of humans) fires have an ancient, geological history on Earth. Natural fires have influenced biological evolution and global biogeochemical cycles, making fire integral to the functioning of some biomes. Globally, debate rages about the impact on ecosystems of prehistoric human-set fires, with views ranging from catastrophic to negligible. Understanding of the diversity of human fire regimes on Earth in the past, present and future remains rudimentary. It remains uncertain how humans have caused a departure from ‘natural’ background levels that vary with climate change. Available evidence shows that modern humans can increase or decrease background levels of natural fire activity by clearing forests, promoting grazing, dispersing plants, altering ignition patterns and actively suppressing fires, thereby causing substantial ecosystem changes and loss of biodiversity. Some of these contemporary fire regimes cause substantial economic disruptions owing to the destruction of infrastructure, degradation of ecosystem services, loss of life, and smoke-related health effects. These episodic disasters help frame negative public attitudes towards landscape fires, despite the need for burning to sustain some ecosystems. Greenhouse gas-induced warming and changes in the hydrological cycle may increase the occurrence of large, severe fires, with potentially significant feedbacks to the Earth system. Improved understanding of human fire regimes demands: (1) better data on past and current human influences on fire regimes to enable global comparative analyses, (2) a greater understanding of different cultural traditions of landscape burning and their positive and negative social, economic and ecological effects, and (3) more realistic representations of anthropogenic fire in global vegetation and climate change models. We provide an historical framework to promote understanding of the development and diversification of fire regimes, covering the pre-human period, human domestication of fire, and the subsequent transition from subsistence agriculture to industrial economies. All of these phases still occur on Earth, providing opportunities for comparative research.
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              Combined climate and carbon-cycle effects of large-scale deforestation.

              The prevention of deforestation and promotion of afforestation have often been cited as strategies to slow global warming. Deforestation releases CO(2) to the atmosphere, which exerts a warming influence on Earth's climate. However, biophysical effects of deforestation, which include changes in land surface albedo, evapotranspiration, and cloud cover also affect climate. Here we present results from several large-scale deforestation experiments performed with a three-dimensional coupled global carbon-cycle and climate model. These simulations were performed by using a fully three-dimensional model representing physical and biogeochemical interactions among land, atmosphere, and ocean. We find that global-scale deforestation has a net cooling influence on Earth's climate, because the warming carbon-cycle effects of deforestation are overwhelmed by the net cooling associated with changes in albedo and evapotranspiration. Latitude-specific deforestation experiments indicate that afforestation projects in the tropics would be clearly beneficial in mitigating global-scale warming, but would be counterproductive if implemented at high latitudes and would offer only marginal benefits in temperate regions. Although these results question the efficacy of mid- and high-latitude afforestation projects for climate mitigation, forests remain environmentally valuable resources for many reasons unrelated to climate.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Annual Review of Anthropology
                Annu. Rev. Anthropol.
                Annual Reviews
                0084-6570
                1545-4290
                October 21 2016
                October 21 2016
                : 45
                : 1
                : 361-376
                Affiliations
                [1 ]Department of Anthropology, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Nevada 89154;
                [2 ]Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Nevada 89154-1002;
                Article
                10.1146/annurev-anthro-102215-095852
                3b1bcd98-bd8f-427d-a9c3-7342edf3d2f6
                © 2016
                History

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