Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa

Four thousand years of environmental change and human activity in the Cochabamba Basin, Bolivia

  • Joseph J. Williams (a1), William D. Gosling (a1), Angela L. Coe (a1), Stephen J. Brooks (a2) and Pauline Gulliver (a3)...

The Cochabamba Basin (Bolivia) is on the ancient road network connecting Andean and lowland areas. Little is known about the longevity of this trade route or how people responded to past environmental changes. The eastern end of the Cochabamba valley system constricts at the Vacas Lake District, constraining the road network and providing an ideal location in which to examine past human–environmental interactions. Multiproxy analysis of sediment from Lake Challacaba has allowed a c. 4000 year environmental history to be reconstructed. Fluctuations in drought tolerant pollen taxa and calcium carbonate indicate two periods of reduced moisture availability (c. 4000–3370 and c. 2190–1020 cal yr BP) compared to adjacent wetter episodes (c. 3370–2190 and c. 1020 cal yr BP–present). The moisture fluctuations broadly correlate to El Niño/Southern Oscillation variations reported elsewhere. High charcoal abundance from c. 4000 to 2000 yr ago indicates continuous use of the ancient road network. A decline in charcoal and an increase in dung fungus (Sporormiella) c. 13401210 cal yr BP, suggests that cultural changes were a major factor in shaping the modern landscape. Despite undisputable impacts of human populations on the Polylepis woodlands today, we see no evidence of woodland clearance in the Challacaba record.

Corresponding author
Corresponding author. Fax: + 44 1908 655151. E-mail address: (J.J. Williams).
Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

M.B. Abbott , M.W. Binford , M. Brenner , and K.R. Kelts A 3500 14C yr high-resolution record of water-level changes in Lake Titicaca, Bolivia/Peru. Quaternary Research 47, (1997). 169180.

M.B. Abbott , B.B. Wolfe , A.P. Wolfe , G.O. Seltzer , R. Aravena , B.G. Mark , P.J. Polissar , D.T. Rodbell , H.D. Rowe , and M. Vuille Holocene paleohydrology and glacial history of the central Andes using multiproxy lake sediment studies. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 194, (2003). 123138.

S.I. Ahmed , and R.F. Cain Revision of the genera Sporormia and Sporormiella . Canadian Journal of Botany 50, (1972). 419477.

P.A. Baker , G.O. Seltzer , S.C. Fritz , R.B. Dunbar , M.J. Grove , P.M. Tapia , S.L. Cross , H.D. Rowe , and J.P. Broda The history of South American tropical precipitation for the past 25,000 years. Science 291, (2001). 640643.

K.D. Bennett Determination of the number of zones in a biostratigraphical sequence. The New Phytologist 132, (1996). 155170.

M.W. Binford , A.L. Kolata , M. Brenner , J.W. Janusek , M.T. Seddon , M. Abbott , and J.H. Curtis Climate variation and the rise and fall of an Andean civilization. Quaternary Research 47, (1997). 235248.

H.J.B. Birks Numerical tools in palaeolimnology — progress, potentialities, and problems. Journal of Paleolimnology 20, (1998). 307332.

M.B. Bush , and C. Weng Introducing a new (freeware) tool for palynology. Journal of Biogeography 34, (2006). 377380.

A.J. Chepstow-Lusty , K.D. Bennett , J. Fjeldså , A. Kendall , W. Galiano , and A.T. Herrera Tracing 4,000 years of environmental history in the Cuzco area, Peru, from the pollen record. Mountain Research and Development 18, (1998). 159172.

A.J. Chepstow-Lusty , M.B. Bush , M.R. Frogley , P.A. Baker , S.C. Fritz , and J. Aronson Vegetation and climate change on the Bolivian Altiplano between 108,000 and 18,000 yr ago. Quaternary Research 63, (2005). 9098.

A.J. Chepstow-Lusty , M.R. Frogley , B.S. Bauer , M.J. Leng , A.B. Cundy , K.P. Boessenkool , and A. Gioda Evaluating socio-economic change in the Andes using oribatid mite abundances as indicators of domestic animal densities. Journal of Archaeological Science 34, (2007). 11781186.

A.J. Chepstow-Lusty , M.R. Frogley , B.S. Bauer , M.J. Leng , K.P. Boessenkool , C. Carcaillet , A.A. Ali , and A. Gioda Putting the rise of the Inca Empire within a climatic and land management context. Climate of the Past 5, (2009). 375388.

J.C.H. Chiang The tropics in paleoclimate. Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences 37, (2009). 263297.

R.P. Cincotta , J. Wisnewski , and R. Engelman Human population in the biodiversity hotspots. Nature 404, (2000). 990992.

E. Gareca , M. Fernández , and S. Stanton Dendrochronological investigation of the high Andean tree species Polylepis besseri and implications for management and conservation. Biodiversity and Conservation 19, (2010). 18391851.

W.D. Gosling , J.A. Hanselman , C. Knox , B.G. Valencia , and M.B. Bush Long-term drivers of change in Polylepis woodland distribution in the central Andes. Journal of Vegetation Science 20, (2009). 10411052.

R.J. Hijmans , S.E. Cameron , J.L. Parra , P.G. Jones , and A. Jarvis Very high resolution interpolated climate surfaces for global land areas. International Journal of Climatology 25, (2005). 19651978.

G. Leduc , L. Vidal , K. Tachikawa , and E. Bard ITCZ rather than ENSO signature for abrupt climate changes across the tropical Pacific?. Quaternary Research 72, (2009). 123131.

T.F. Lynch Camelid pastoralism and the emergence of Tiwanaku civilization in the south-central Andes. World Archaeology 15, (1983). 114.

J.R. Malcolm , C. Liu , R.P. Neilson , L. Hansen , and L. Hannah Global warming and extinctions of endemic species from biodiversity hotspots. Conservation Biology 20, (2006). 538548.

R. Marchant , L. Almeida , H. Behling , J.C. Berrio , M. Bush , A. Cleef , J. Duivenvoorden , M. Kappelle , P. De Oliveira , A. Teixeira de Oliveira-Filho , S. Lozano-Garcia , H. Hooghiemstra , M.-P. Ledru , B. Ludlow-Wiechers , V. Markgraf , V. Mancini , M. Paez , A. Prieto , O. Rangel , and M.L. Salgado-Labouriau Distribution and ecology of parent taxa of pollen lodged within the Latin American Pollen Database. Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology 121, (2002). 175.

F.G. McCormac , A.G. Hogg , P.G. Blackwell , C.E. Buck , T.F.G. Higham , and P.J. Reimer SHCal04 Southern Hemisphere calibration 0–11.0 cal kyr BP. Radiocarbon 46, (2004). 10871092.

N. McQuarrie The kinematic history of the central Andean fold–thrust belt, Bolivia: implications for building a high plateau. Geological Society of America Bulletin 114, (2002). 950963.

J.A. Molina , G. Navarro , N. de la Barra , and A. Lumbreras Andean aquatic vegetation in central Bolivia. Phytocoenologia 37, (2007). 753768.

C.M. Moy , G.O. Seltzer , D.T. Rodbell , and D.M. Anderson Variability of El Niño/Southern Oscillation activity at millennial timescales during the Holocene epoch. Nature 420, (2002). 162165.

N. Myers , R.A. Mittermeier , C.G. Mittermeier , G.A.B. da Fonseca , and J. Kent Biodiversity hotspots for conservation priorities. Nature 403, (2000). 853858.

D.M. Olson , E. Dinerstein , E.D. Wikramanayake , N.D. Burgess , G.V.N. Powell , E.C. Underwood , J.A. D'amico , I. Itoua , H.E. Strand , J.C. Morrison , C.J. Loucks , T.F. Allnutt , T.H. Ricketts , Y. Kura , J.F. Lamoreux , W.W. Wettengel , P. Hedao , and K.R. Kassem Terrestrial ecoregions of the world: a new map of life on Earth. Bioscience 51, (2001). 933938.

G.M. Paduano , M.B. Bush , P.A. Baker , S.C. Fritz , and G.O. Seltzer A vegetation and fire history of Lake Titicaca since the Last Glacial Maximum. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 194, (2003). 259279.

D. Raper , and M. Bush A test of Sporormiella representation as a predictor of megaherbivore presence and abundance. Quaternary Research 71, (2009). 490496.

B. Rein , A. Lückge , L. Reinhardt , F. Sirocko , A. Wolf , and W.-C. Dullo El Niño variability off Peru during the last 20,000 years. Paleoceanography 20, (2005).

B. Sillar Dung by preference: the choice of fuel as an example of how Andean pottery production is embedded within wider technical, social and economic practices. Archaeometry 42, (2000). 4360.

M. Stuiver , and P.J. Reimer Extended 14C database and revised CALIB radiocarbon calibration program. Radiocarbon 35, (1993). 215230.

L.G. Thompson , E. Mosley-Thompson , J.F. Bolzan , and B.R. Koci A 1500-year record of tropical precipitation in ice cores from the Quelccaya Ice Cap, Peru. Science 229, (1985). 971973.

D.H. Urrego , M.B. Bush , and M.R. Silman A long history of cloud and forest migration from Lake Consuelo, Peru. Quaternary Research 73, (2010). 364373.

B.G. Valencia , D.H. Urrego , M.R. Silman , and M.B. Bush From ice age to modern: a record of landscape change in an Andean cloud forest. Journal of Biogeography 37, (2010). 16371647.

K.J. Willis , and H.J.B. Birks What is natural? The need for a long-term perspective in biodiversity conservation. Science 314, (2006). 12611265.

B. Winterhalder , R. Larsen , and R. Thomas Dung as an essential resource in a highland Peruvian community. Human Ecology 2, (1974). 89104.

C.A. Woodward , and J. Shulmeister A Holocene record of human induced and natural environmental change from Lake Forsyth (Te Wairewa), New Zealand. Journal of Paleolimnology 34, (2005). 481501.

R. Yevich , and J.A. Logan An assessment of biofuel use and burning of agricultural waste in the developing world. Global Biogeochem Cycles 17, (2003). 10951135.

J. Zhou , and K.M. Lau Does a monsoon climate exist over South America?. Journal of Climate 11, (1998). 10201040.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Quaternary Research
  • ISSN: 0033-5894
  • EISSN: 1096-0287
  • URL: /core/journals/quaternary-research
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 4 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 16 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between 20th January 2017 - 27th June 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.