Anthropological Contributions to Historical Ecology: 50 Questions, Infinite Prospects

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Scholarly level: 
Graduate student (PhD)
Final version published as: 

Armstrong CG, Shoemaker AC, McKechnie I, Ekblom A, Szabó P, Lane PJ, et al. (2017) Anthropological contributions to historical ecology: 50 questions, infinite prospects. PLoS ONE 12(2): e0171883. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0171883.

Date created: 

This paper presents the results of a consensus-driven process identifying 50 priority research questions for historical ecology obtained through crowdsourcing, literature reviews, and in-person workshopping. A deliberative approach was designed to maximize discussion and debate with defined outcomes. Two in-person workshops (in Sweden and Canada) over the course of two years and online discussions were peer facilitated to define specific key questions for historical ecology from anthropological and archaeological perspectives. The aim of this research is to showcase the variety of questions that reflect the broad scope for historical-ecological research trajectories across scientific disciplines. Historical ecology encompasses research concerned with decadal, centennial, and millennial human-environmental interactions, and the consequences that those relationships have in the formation of contemporary landscapes. Six interrelated themes arose from our consensus-building workshop model: (1) climate and environmental change and variability; (2) multi-scalar, multi-disciplinary; (3) biodiversity and community ecology; (4) resource and environmental management and governance; (5) methods and applications; and (6) communication and policy. The 50 questions represented by these themes highlight meaningful trends in historical ecology that distill the field down to three explicit findings. First, historical ecology is fundamentally an applied research program. Second, this program seeks to understand long-term human-environment interactions with a focus on avoiding, mitigating, and reversing adverse ecological effects. Third, historical ecology is part of convergent trends toward transdisciplinary research science, which erodes scientific boundaries between the cultural and natural.

Document type: 
Integrated History and Future of People on Earth (IHOPE)
Mind and Nature research node at Uppsala University
office of the Vice-President, Academic and Provost of Simon Fraser University