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  • Cited by 10
Cambridge University Press
Online publication date:
November 2017
Print publication year:
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Book description

Historical ecology is a research framework which draws upon diverse evidence to trace complex, long-term relationships between humanity and Earth. With roots in anthropology, archaeology, ecology and paleoecology, geography, and landscape and heritage management, historical ecology applies a practical and holistic perspective to the study of change. Furthermore, it plays an important role in both fundamental research and in developing future strategies for integrated, equitable landscape management. The framework presented in this volume covers critical issues, including: practicing transdisciplinarity, the need for understanding interactions between human societies and ecosystem processes, the future of regions and the role of history and memory in a changing world. Including many examples of co-developed research, Issues and Concepts in Historical Ecology provides a platform for collaboration across disciplines and aims to equip researchers, policy-makers, funders, and communities to make decisions that can help to construct an inclusive and resilient future for humanity.


'Historical ecology has become a master methodology of our time, part of the new holism. This volume explains the how and the why of it. Not only does it offer a critical synthesis with relevant examples, but also a prospectus for likely future developments and applications. The authors bring a wealth of complementary experience and expertise to their task, drawing on different backgrounds to delineate a field of research that is intrinsically and necessarily multi-disciplinary and collaborative. Readers are carefully led through the theoretical connections between an assemblage of intertwined concepts of current and increasing intellectual significance - the Anthropocene and landscape domestication, complexity, memory and local environmental knowledge, shifting baseline syndrome, biocultural diversity, niche construction and co-evolution. Together, these have progressively undermined older 'functionalist' and 'adaptionist' assumptions about how socio-ecological systems really work in the twenty-first century.'

Roy Ellen - Centre for Biocultural Diversity, University of Kent

'Crumley, Westin, Lennartsson et al. have made a monumental contribution in this book to interdisciplinary studies bridging nature and society. They have made a significant advance in the framework known as historical ecology, and they show the relevance of the past to our future, by rich examples from throughout the world to illustrate the value of this framework. Drawing from anthropology, geology, archeology, ecology, paleoecology, geography, landscape and heritage management and history, the framework addresses both local and earth system scale dynamics. A major advance in our ways of knowing our planet.'

Emilio F. Moran - Michigan State University

'A really well edited and coherent volume that both provides a comprehensive update on the mature and rapidly expanding field of historical ecology and points the way forward to additional applications in archaeology, sustainability studies, and restoration ecology. It makes a strong case for the relevance of the longue durée for modern planners, and firmly places archaeology and environmental history with paleoecology as key elements in any coordinated global environmental change research program. The collaborative mutual editing of the participants adds considerable value and underlines the team building approach of cultural ecology and the editors. A fine work that should be widely read by anyone interested in long term sustainability and the role of past in scenario building for the future.'

Thomas McGovern - Hunter College, City University of New York

'… recognizes that pressing environmental issues demand collaborative work between the social, ecological, and physical sciences, the humanities, practitioners, and local and indigenous knowledge … [the authors] offer a flexible framework that informs the historical ecological research process from stages of problem framing to analysis to policy engagement. Richly illustrated, it contributes to building bridges between past, present, and future, knowledge and value systems, local landscapes and global changes … represents a much-needed call for engaging multiple types of evidence needed to examine complexity in human-environmental issues. Grounded on the lived reality of biocultural landscapes from around the world, the historical ecological framework offered by the authors will help to guide collaborative work in ways that are inclusive of multiple evidences and narratives about environmental change. [It] is an outstanding contribution to the social-environmental research community and the global sustainability conversation more broadly, accessible and provocative to scholars, students, and practitioners across multiple fields.'

Eduardo S. Brondizio - Indiana University

'This is an invigorating book, full of new ideas and striking arguments. The contributors have worked hard, and successfully, in their attempt to provide a conceptual framework to a vitally important field of intellectual enquiry.'

Tom Williamson Source: The Agricultural History Review

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