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PAGES Focus 4 workshop: Towards a more accurate quantification of human-environment interactions in the past

Louven, Belgium
Workshop report
Contact person
Gert Verstraeten
E-Mail address
Working groups
Meeting Category

Since the introduction of agriculture, humans have profoundly changed the natural environment through land cover change and subsequent changes in soil and sediment properties as well as aquatic ecosystems. Furthermore, these long-term changes have been argued to be responsible for significant changes in the global carbon cycle with feedbacks to climate, suggesting that the Anthropocene era began long before the Industrial Revolution.

However, the extent to which humans have impacted the environment at regional to global scales long before the modern era is still under debate. Different estimates of regional and global land cover histories do exist but often with large discrepancies between them. An accurate quantification is necessary though in order to fully grasp to what extent humans have impacted climate and/or terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems on the one hand, but also to explore the feedback mechanisms between environmental change and societal development, collapse or resilience.

The uncertainty on past human impact complicates the use of research on the past in order to better understand and manage terrestrial ecosystems in the future. A more detailed integration of data from both environmental sciences as well as from humanities is needed to resolve these issues. This requires not only the development of a forum where scientists from a variety of disciplines can meet and share their data and ideas, but it also needs methodological innovations that allow to incorporate data of various qualities and resolutions.

This workshop aims to provide such a platform to share data, results and ideas on how to quantify past human-environment interactions.

Topics to be discussed include: i) the quantification of human impact on the landscape (including population dynamics and vegetation change) at various spatial and temporal scales, ii) the quantification of the environmental response to human impact (on soils, sediments, lakes, C cycle and climate), and iii) the quantification of thresholds levels and feedback mechanisms between human activities and the environment.

Next to oral and poster presentations, sufficient time for discussion will be provided.

For more information see the website.

To submit abstracts:

Post-meeting material

> Anthropocene special issue: Quantification of human–environment interactions in the past

> View the programme and abstract volume

Important dates

10 July 2013: opening abstract submission

20 October 2013: deadline for abstract submission


LSUE - Leuven Sustainable Earth, Centre for Archaeological Sciences, Division of Geography,

University of Leuven (KU Leuven)

Celestijnenlaan 200E, Box 2409

B-3001, Leuven, Belgium

Email: (gert[dot]verstraeten[at]ees[dot]kuleuven[dot]be)