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Historical Ecology of Cultural Landscapes in the Pacific Northwest

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Thesis type
(Thesis) Ph.D.
Date created
Historical ecology is a research program dedicated to uncovering the complex interactions between humans, their lived landscapes, and the repercussions of those relationships on contemporary social-ecological ecosystems. Cultural landscapes can exhibit multifaceted and complex elements that require a creative and novel scientific approach to be understood. A historical-ecological approach iteratively fuses scientific methods in archaeology, biology, paleoecology, and environmental history, with Indigenous research methodologies. Using the Pacific Northwest as a focus, this dissertation addresses the applicative future of historical-ecological research. Four interrelated research contributions are compiled to represent both the broad theoretical applications of historical ecology in a global context, as well as more regionally focused and explicit methodological contributions. In two papers, results from a consensus-driven, priority-setting exercise and literature review, suggest that the future of historical ecology will have implications for policy, stewardship, and decolonizing attitudes towards resource management and climate change research. In a third paper, ethnographic interviews are used to navigate a nexus of federated knowledge surrounding the management of perennial species like hazelnut (Corylus cornuta) and Pacific crabapple (Malus fusca) in British Columbia (BC). This work shows that, while the legacy of colonialism has disorganizing effects on Indigenous communities, Indigenous people have distinct traditional ecological knowledge relating to the management of their ancestral homelands. The fourth paper builds on this work by applying a functional ecological approach to analyze anthropogenic forests from archaeological village sites in BC. This analysis illustrates how Indigenous land-use legacies lead to distinct biodiverse ecosystem functions and services. The wide range of co-authors from various fields, institutions, and Indigenous communities in all these papers exemplifies the multidisciplinary and versatile nature of the historical-ecological approach. This dissertation shows that environmental research requires the equitable consilience of multiple voices and disciplines for a future that is socially and environmentally just.
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This thesis may be printed or downloaded for non-commercial research and scholarly purposes.
Scholarly level
Supervisor or Senior Supervisor
Thesis advisor: Lepofsky, Dana
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