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A Dynamic History of Climate Change and Human Impact on the Environment from Keālia Pond, Maui, Hawaiian Islands

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High-resolution palynological, charcoal, and sedimentological analysis of a sediment core from Keālia Pond, Maui, coupled with archaeological and historical records, provides a detailed chronology of vegetation and climate change since before human arrival. These records provide new evidence for human–environment linkages during the Hawaiian Polynesian period and subsequent European period. Prior to human arrival, the charcoal record indicates that native forests were subject to natural fires. A shift from dry to wet climate conditions marked the beginning of the Medieval Climate Anomaly (MCA) as evidenced by a precipitation reconstruction based on a pollen abundance index. Charcoal increases around AD 840–1140 signal the presence of Polynesians in the Keālia Pond region, but there is no evidence of rapid and extensive forest clearance immediately after Polynesian arrival. The greatest reduction in pollen diversity at Keālia Pond occurred during the European period (post 1778), at which point the pollen record indicates that montane forest taxa declined, native lowland taxa disappeared from the record, and nonnative taxa Prosopis and Batis made their first appearances. Accounts by early Europeans during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries provide a historical narrative supporting the interpretation that European impacts on vegetation were widespread, whereas in this region of Maui, Polynesian impacts on vegetation appear largely confined to the lowlands.
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Keywords: Anomalía Climática Medieval; Hawaiian Islands; Medieval Climate Anomaly; Polynesian population growth; bosques secos submontanos; crecimiento de la población polinesia; desmonte; forest clearance; islas de Hawaii; lowland dry forests

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS), 2: Department of Geography,University of California, Los Angeles,

Publication date: 2012-07-01

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