Piperno (a senior scientist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Panama, and the National Museum of Natural History, Washington, DC) here offers a guide to phytolith research for archaeologists and paleoecologists
, beginning with a discussion of who and why plants make phytoliths.
The implications are direct for paleoecologists
, ecophysiologists, and plant geographers who interpret plant responses in relation to environmental gradients.
And while for most people dirt is something they try not to track into the house, for paleoecologists such as Brush it is a key to the past whose professional name is sediment.
Paleoecologist Grace Brush tracks the history of climate, vegetation, and human occupation by "reading" the microscopic components of soils and sediments.
Although the unique environment of the Amazonian Basin and its limitations for the development of permanent settlements and intensive agriculture have been documented by geologists, paleoecologists
, climatologists, botanists, and other natural scientists for decades, Erickson insists that "Rather than adapt to or be limited by the Amazonian environment, humans created, transformed, and managed cultural or anthropogenic (human-made) landscapes that suited their purposes " (Chapter 11, p.
Ruddiman and Ellis based their finding on several studies by anthropologists, archaeologists and paleoecologists
indicating that early civilizations used a great amount of land to grow relatively small amounts of food.
Paleoecologists have long applied informal, "subjective" weightings in interpreting pollen data to correct for these distortions.
Our review is aimed at bringing important issues, data, and literature to the attention of botanists and paleoecologists, and to stimulate additional research in pollen dispersal, which is at the heart of paleoecological inference.
Paleoecologists are faced with a dilemma: Both the ground-level and elevated-source models appear to be unrealistic in application to forest canopy, yet they are the only simple models available.
Ecology is concerned with the whole gamut of temporal variation scales, with paleoecologists
focusing on medium- to very long-term patterns and (neo)ecologists on the shorter term ones.
Ecologists and paleoecologists
have become increasingly interested in questions of spatial and temporal scale.