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Agrarian landscapes in transition: The case of central Arizona.
Kinzig, Ann *,1, 2, Redman, Charles2, 1 Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ2 Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ
ABSTRACT- The patterns humans impose on the Earth through purposeful and inadvertent land-use change are fundamental determinants of local, regional, and global ecological processes that ultimately influence the sustainability of both biological and cultural landscapes, and thus human quality of life. The introduction, spread, and abandonment of agriculture represents the most pervasive alteration of the Earth's environment during the past 10,000 years, affecting 2/3 of the Earth's terrestrial surface. The transitions of agrarian landscapes and life ways continue to take many forms, ranging from abandonment to urban development to more intensified agriculture. Our central objective is to understand what happens when humans impose their spatial and temporal signatures on ecological regimes and must then respond to the systems they have helped create, further altering the dynamics of the coupled system and the potential for ecological and social resilience. We are studying this question in a comparative context across six different LTER sites, each with different agricultural histories and residing in different biogeographic regions of the nation. In this presentation, we give a broad overview of the objectives of the study and the sites involved, and provide a narrative of agrarian transformations in central and southern Arizona. In spite of being in an arid landscape with low precipitation, the central and southern Arizona landscapes consist of nearly 2 million acres of highly productive farmland today. Around the rapidly urbanizing area of Phoenix, much of this farmland is being converted to residential settlements, while some is abandoned to desert conversion. We offer an historic perspective on these conversions--from the pre-historic Native American habitations to the historic Anglo occupations--and discuss some of the implications for ecological processes.
Key words: historical ecology, agricultural landscapes, landscape transformation