A new study has arrived to the conclusion that early humans set fire to Madagascar’s forests to be able to build pastures for cattle. While until now it was largely known that humans did great damage to the island’s environment during the industrial revolution, it appears that they started doing so long before.
Throughout history the human race has left its permanent trace on nature. Unfortunately, our actions have damaged the environment and continue to do so in the present day. Numerous scientists believe that global warming is the result of our careless and greedy actions. However, a new study points out that man started taming nature even thousands of years ago.
University of Massachusetts Amherst scientists from MIT have found out that one thousand years ago humans set the forests of Madagascar Island ablaze. Therefore, our planet started losing trees long before industrialization. The discovery was released in the journal Quaternary Science Reviews.
It appears that one thousand years ago, our ancestors decided to make space for pastures for their cattle. In order to do so they erased several acres of forest. However, it was not an artefact or a fossil that led scientists to this conclusion, but a couple of stalagmites from an ancient cave.
Stalagmites are rock formations that appear on the floor of caves, very similar to stalactites that hang from the ceiling. Researchers were studying the green canopy of the island when they stumbled upon the cones inside the cave. Therefore, they decided to perform an analysis of chemical nature on the stalagmites and discovered that they presented different levels of calcium carbon during different times.
In more detail, it seems that over a hundred years ago the mark of calcium carbon differed from trees to grasslands. In other words, the ratio of carbon isotope was not present in this interval which is related to the existence of shrubs or trees. The only ratio that was present was the one linked to grasslands and meadows.
The result was clear: during a period of time one thousand years ago there were no trees in the region of the case in Madagascar. Global warming was ruled out because the oxygen isotopes did not record level variations. Since humans started inhabiting the island about three thousand years ago, the conclusion is that they were the cause for the disappearance of the green canopy.
Early humans set fire to Madagascar’s forests when they changed their lifestyle to a more agrarian one. The discovery demonstrates once again that humans are willing to change nature for their own needs.
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