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科学美国人60秒: 热带森林记录人类历史

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Indigenous Amazonians Managed Valuable Plant Life

热带森林记录人类历史

If you watch nature documentaries, it’s easy to come away with the impression that lush tropical forests have been largely undisturbed until modern times.

看自然纪录片,很容易产生这样的印象:直到现代,郁郁葱葱的热带森林基本上没有受到干扰。

“Tropical forests have sort of long been considered to be these pristine wildernesses that humans haven’t really touched until recent industrial forces have started to invade them and challenge them with 21st-century capitalism.”

“热带森林一直被认为是人类未接触的原始的荒野,直到最近工业力量开始入侵,人们开始用21世纪资本挑战热带森林。”

Archaeological scientist Patrick Roberts of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.

马克斯·普朗克人类历史科学研究所的考古学家帕特里克·罗伯茨说。

“However, in the last two decades, archaeological data have shown that, actually, human societies have occupied and modified these environments over many millennia.”

“然而,在过去的20年的考古数据表明,实际上,人类在数千年以前就已经开始占据和改变这些环境。\

Roberts says some of the trees alive in tropical forests are up to a thousand years old. And they’re sort of like time capsules, storing a record of past human activity in their tree rings, chemistry and DNA.

罗伯茨表示,在热带森林中生长的一些树木已经有一千多年的历史了。它们有点像时间胶囊,在年轮、化学和DNA中储存着过去人类活动的记录。

“So we wanted to see how different existing methods might come together to explore past tree populations, tree growth, tree ages by looking at the largest witnesses of the changes in human activity in the tropics—the trees themselves.”

“因此,我们希望通过观察热带地区人类活动变化的最大见证者——树木,来了解不同的现有方法如何结合在一起,去探索过去的树木种群、树木生长和树木年龄。”

For example, indigenous peoples of the Amazon basin cultivated Brazil nuts for thousands of years. Roberts’s colleague Victor Caetano-Andrade analyzed tree rings to determine the age and growth rates of Brazil nut trees near the city of Manaus. He found that many trees were established in the late 1600s, but there was a steep drop-off in new trees around the middle of the 18th century.

例如,亚马逊盆地的土著民族种植巴西坚果已有数千年的历史。罗伯茨的同事维克多·卡塔诺-安德雷德分析了马瑙斯市附近的树木年轮,以确定巴西坚果树的年龄和生长速度。他发现,许多树都是在17世纪晚期种植的,但在18世纪中期,新树的数量急剧下降。

“As colonial communities came into Manaus and developed the city, they drove indigenous people out, often killing them. And what Victor found is that, actually, their growth slowed after this period without these traditional management strategies. So these Brazil nut trees that were still standing near Manaus are actually affected by these pre- and postcolonial changes in human settlement and activity.”

随着殖民地社区进入玛瑙斯并开发这座城市,他们把土著人赶了出去,并进行杀戮。维克多发现,实际上,在没有这些传统管理策略的情况下,树木的增长在这段时间后会放缓。所以这些仍然矗立在玛瑙斯附近的巴西坚果树实际上受到了人类定居和活动的前殖民和后殖民变化的影响。”

Another example is how communities selected for genetic traits in a variety of tropical trees, such as the cocoa tree—used, of course, to make chocolate.

另一个例子是,人们如何选择通过遗传特征选择树木,比如可可树,当然是用来制作巧克力的。

“A more detailed full genome analysis of this plant has shown that humans may have even selected genes that reduced bitterness and improved its resistance to disease for their own economic benefit.”

对这种植物的更详细的全基因组分析表明,人类甚至可能为了自己的经济利益选择了减少可可树木苦味和提高抗病能力的基因。”

The study is in the journal Trends in Plant Science.

该研究结果发表在《植物科学发展趋势》杂志上。

Roberts says recognizing tropical trees as time capsules of cultural heritage gives us yet another reason to protect them.

罗伯茨表示,热带树木作为文化遗产的时间见证,是让我们对它们进行保护的另一个理由。

“Not just because of their ecological benefits, which are hugely significant, but also the information that they store about human history, about our past.”

“不仅仅是因为它们的生态效益,非常重要的,而且还因为还有因为它们储存了关于人类历史、关于我们的过去的信息。”

Indigenous Amazonians Managed Valuable Plant Life

If you watch nature documentaries, it’s easy to come away with the impression that lush tropical forests have been largely undisturbed until modern times.

“Tropical forests have sort of long been considered to be these pristine wildernesses that humans haven’t really touched until recent industrial forces have started to invade them and challenge them with 21st-century capitalism.”

Archaeological scientist Patrick Roberts of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.

“However, in the last two decades, archaeological data have shown that, actually, human societies have occupied and modified these environments over many millennia.”

Roberts says some of the trees alive in tropical forests are up to a thousand years old. And they’re sort of like time capsules, storing a record of past human activity in their tree rings, chemistry and DNA.

“So we wanted to see how different existing methods might come together to explore past tree populations, tree growth, tree ages by looking at the largest witnesses of the changes in human activity in the tropics—the trees themselves.”

For example, indigenous peoples of the Amazon basin cultivated Brazil nuts for thousands of years. Roberts’s colleague Victor Caetano-Andrade analyzed tree rings to determine the age and growth rates of Brazil nut trees near the city of Manaus. He found that many trees were established in the late 1600s, but there was a steep drop-off in new trees around the middle of the 18th century.

“As colonial communities came into Manaus and developed the city, they drove indigenous people out, often killing them. And what Victor found is that, actually, their growth slowed after this period without these traditional management strategies. So these Brazil nut trees that were still standing near Manaus are actually affected by these pre- and postcolonial changes in human settlement and activity.”

Another example is how communities selected for genetic traits in a variety of tropical trees, such as the cocoa tree—used, of course, to make chocolate.

“A more detailed full genome analysis of this plant has shown that humans may have even selected genes that reduced bitterness and improved its resistance to disease for their own economic benefit.”

The study is in the journal Trends in Plant Science.

Roberts says recognizing tropical trees as time capsules of cultural heritage gives us yet another reason to protect them.

“Not just because of their ecological benefits, which are hugely significant, but also the information that they store about human history, about our past.”


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