Ancient Biodiversity



The same arguments about 1) the need for adaptability and 2) that we should look to past to consider how best to deal with the future are also gaining currency within the fields of environmental management and, in particular, with regards to issues of biodiversity.

As with landscape management, policy documents relating to environmental conservation and biodiversity “rarely look back more than 50 years and may ignore the historical context entirely. This has been a lost opportunity for understanding ecological systems. Many natural processes occur over timescales that confound our attempts to understand them, so the vast temporal perspective provided by palaeoecological studies can provide important guidance for nature conservation (Willis & Birks 2006)” (Hodder et al. 2009, 4).

Similar to W.G Hoskins, certain key scholars have pushed the agenda forward and notable amongst these is Oliver Rackham whose work on the history of Britain’s flora and fauna has highlighted how biodiversity has changed through time, reflecting millennia of human-environment interactions and showing that humans are, and have always been, a force of nature – we are certainly not separate from it.

The rise of global trade has seen a sharp increase in the number of plants and animals transported around the world by humans, purposefully or inadvertently. Many of these introductions are legacies of ancient societies, dating back thousands of years. They have radically altered the environment, sometimes detrimentally by outcompeting native species in the absence of natural predators.