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Madagascar Forest Damaged by Human Settlers Millennium Ago, Says Study

Update Date: Feb 28, 2016 03:48 PM EST
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According to a new study, human activity has been responsible for shaping the planet much before Industrial Revolution. It says that 1,000 years ago, human settlement transformed the face of forests eternally, as reported by Tech Times

MIT University researchers and the University of Massachusetts deduced that the Madagascar forest's widespread and permanent loss happened thousand years ago due to human settlers who set ablaze the landscape so that they could make a ground available for cattle grazing. This is against the popular belief that the loss of Madagascar forest is due to climate change or some natural calamity. The scientists reached the conclusion of using fire as the way to create pasture for their cattle by examining two stalagmites discovered in the cave of Northwestern Madagascar, reports Nature World News

As per the study, calcium carbonate component of stalagmite changed completely and suddenly in just a hundred years from the characteristic of carbon isotope of shrubbery and trees to those that are typically grassland. However, there was no change in the oxygen isotope that ruled out the possibility of drop in rainfall or climate change as the cause for loss of forest.

"Both the speed at which this shift occurred and the fact that there's no real climate signal suggest human involvement," says study author and MIT assistant professor David McGee.

The evidence of human settlement in Madagascar dates back to about 3,000 years and their migration to agrarian lifestyle and cattle to a thousand years ago.

The researchers want to procure more samples from Madagascar caves so that they can examine the extent of human influence on the forest. While climate change has been taken out of the picture, there could also be other factors responsible, says Laurie Godfrey, Anthropology professor and the study author.

"[W]e don't yet know whether similar shifts, also unrelated to natural aridification, occurred elsewhere on the island, and if so, when, exactly," Economic Times reports

 

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