Session: #219

Theme & Session Format

1. Widening horizons through human-environment interconnections
Session format:
Regular session

Title & Content

The Historical Ecology of Reclamation Landscapes: Towards a Cross-Cultural Comparative Perspective
Wetlands are extremely rich ecosystems, and have attracted humans throughout (pre)history. Although these areas are often perceived as marginal in urban societies, it was particularly in periods of growing socio-political complexity and population growth, that wetlands provided attractive landscapes to reclaim and exploit in more intensive and systematic ways.
However, the reclamation and exploitation of wetlands could come at a high price: the investments needed to reclaim wetlands could easily approach or exceed the capacities of a society; living and working in these landscapes was often strenuous; and different institutions and groups could have conflicting interests in their exploitation; and drainage measures could radically alter ecosystems and land-use potential.
Recently, de-watered landscapes are experiencing calls for restoration. While necessary to return a range of ecosystem-services, expansive restoration programmes require policymakers to balance wetland’s archaeological/palaeoecological significance with potential ecosystem-service provision. Policymakers need established, comprehensive datasets to understand and mitigate the risks involved and add value to restoration efforts.
Thus, reclaimed wetlands provide excellent contexts to explore the impact of past societies on the long-term development of landscapes, which in turn crucially informs current restoration policies. The framework of historical ecology (and related concepts of sustainability and resilience) have been successfully applied to understand the complex interplay of cultural and environmental processes in the development of such reclaimed landscapes.
Building on such scholarship, this session explores how societies in different geographic and historical contexts faced the challenges involved in exploiting wetlands, and how the reclamation of such landscapes affected, and continues to affect, their development and exploitation. Regional case studies provide new insights into commonalities in the ecological and human responses to, often unforeseen, environmental and land-use change. They integrate historical, archaeological and ecological sources to reconstruct how different processes interact in the long-term, and how to safeguard these landscapes during restoration.
Wetlands, Historical ecology, Reclamation, cross-cultural comparison, longue durée
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Main organiser:
Tymon Haas (Netherlands) 1
Mans Schepers (Netherlands) 2
Kevin Walsh (United Kingdom) 3
Tom Gardner (United Kingdom) 4
Michael Stratigos (United Kingdom) 5
1. Leiden University
2. University of Groningen
3. University of York
4. Historic Environment Scotland
5. Leverhulme Centre for Anthropocene Biodiversity, University of York