Imperfect Balance: Landscape Transformations in the Pre-Columbian Americas

Imperfect Balance: Landscape Transformations in the Pre-Columbian Americas

Paperback Historical Ecology Series

Edited by Dr. David L. Lentz

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  • Publisher: Columbia University Press
  • Format: Paperback | 788 pages
  • Dimensions: 178mm x 246mm x 25mm | 998g
  • Publication date: 26 September 2000
  • Publication City/Country: New York
  • ISBN 10: 0231111576
  • ISBN 13: 9780231111577
  • Edition statement: New.
  • Sales rank: 1,007,805

Product description

We often envision the New World before the arrival of the Europeans as a land of pristine natural beauty and undisturbed environments. However, David Lentz offers an alternative view by detailing the impact of native cultures on these ecosystems prior to their contact with Europeans. Drawing on a wide range of experts from the fields of paleoclimatology, historical ecology, paleontology, botany, geology, conservation science, and resource management, this book unlocks the secret of how the Western Hemisphere's indigenous inhabitants influenced and transformed their natural environment. A rare combination of collaborators uncovers the changes that took place in North America, Mexico, Central America, the Andes, and Amazonia. Each section of the book has been comprehensively arranged so that a botanical description of the natural vegetation of the region is coupled with a set of case studies outlining local human influences. From modifications of vegetation, to changes in soil, wildlife, microclimate, hydrology, and the land surface itself, this collection addresses one of the great issues of our time: the human modification of the earth.

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Author information

David Lentz is director of the graduate studies program at The New York Botanical Garden. He is the author or coauthor of and contributor to more than fifty scholarly articles and books.

Review quote

The combination of articles and examples in [this] book is able to draw a picture of pre-Columbians as integral and influential parts and components of the landscape. The volume brings together natural scientists, archaeologists, and cultural ecologists to investigate the interaction between natural systems and human intervention. Such a combination is rarely seen in this comprehensive manner.

Back cover copy

WE OFTEN ENVISION THE NEW WORLD BEFORE THE ARRIVAL of the Europeans as a land of pristine natural beauty and undisturbed environments. However, David Lentz offers an alternative view by detailing the impact of native cultures on these ecosystems prior to their contact with Europeans. Drawing on a wide range of experts from the fields of paleoclimatology, historical ecology, paleontology, botany, geology, conservation science, and resource management, this book unlocks the secret of how the Western Hemisphere's indigenous inhabitants influenced and transformed their natural environment.A rare combination of collaborators uncovers the changes that took place in North America, Mexico, Central America, the Andes, and Amazonia. Each section of the book has been comprehensively arranged so that a botanical description of the natural vegetation of the region is coupled with a set of case studies outlining local human influences. From modifications of vegetation, to changes in soil, wildlife, microclimate, hydrology, and the land surface itself, this collection addresses one of the great issues of our time: the human modification of the earth.

Table of contents

Foreword, by William Denevan1. Introduction: Definitions and Conceptual Underpinnings, by David L. Lentz2. Climate Changes in the Northern American Tropics and Subtropics since the Last Ice Age: Implications for Environment and Culture, by David A. Hodell, Mark Brenner, and Jason H. Curtis3. Vegetation in the Floristic Regions of North and Central America, by Andrew M. Greller4. Anthropocentric Food Webs in the Precolumbian Americas, by David L. Lentz5. Prehispanic Agricultural Systems in the Basin of Mexico, by Emily McClung de Tapia6. Prehispanic Water Management and Agricultural Intensification in Mexico and Venezuela: Implications for Contemporary Ecological Planning, by Charles S. Spencer7. Stability and Instability in Prehispanic May a Landscapes, by Nicholas Dunning and Timothy Beach8. Precolumbian Silviculture and Indigenous Management of Neotropical Forests, by Charles Peters9. Native Farming Systems and Ecosystems in the Mississippi River Valley, by Gayle J. Fritz10. Hohokam Impacts on Sonoran Desert Environment, by Suzanne Fish11. Vegetation of the Tropical Andes, by James Luteyn and Steven Churchill12. The Lake Titicaca Basin: A Precolumbian Built Landscape, by Clark L. Erickson13. Andean Land Use at the Cusp of History, by Terence N. D'Altroy14. Lowland Vegetation of Tropical South America -- An Overview, by Douglas Daly and John Mitchell15. The Lower Amazon: A Dynamic Human Habitat, by Anna C. RooseveltSummary and Conclusions