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Ancient Biological Invasions and Island Ecosystems: Tracking Translocations of Wild Plants and Animals

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Biological invasions are one of the great threats to Earth’s ecosystems and biodiversity in the Anthropocene. However, species introductions and invasions extend deep into the human past, with the translocation of both wild and domestic species around the world. Here, we review the human translocation of wild plants and animals to the world’s islands. We focus on establishing criteria used to differentiate natural from human-assisted dispersals and the differences between non-native and invasive species. Our study demonstrates that, along with a suite of domesticates, ancient people transported numerous wild plants and animals to islands and helped shape ecosystems in ways that have important ramifications for modern conservation, restoration, and management.
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Ancient Biological Invasions and Island Ecosystems:
Tracking Translocations of Wild Plants and Animals
Courtney A. Hofman
1
Torben C. Rick
2
Published online: 30 June 2017
ÓSpringer Science+Business Media New York (outside the USA) 2017
Abstract Biological invasions are one of the great threats to Earth’s ecosystems
and biodiversity in the Anthropocene. However, species introductions and invasions
extend deep into the human past, with the translocation of both wild and domestic
species around the world. Here, we review the human translocation of wild plants
and animals to the world’s islands. We focus on establishing criteria used to dif-
ferentiate natural from human-assisted dispersals and the differences between non-
native and invasive species. Our study demonstrates that, along with a suite of
domesticates, ancient people transported numerous wild plants and animals to
islands and helped shape ecosystems in ways that have important ramifications for
modern conservation, restoration, and management.
Keywords Invasive species Historical ecology Interdisciplinary
methods Anthropocene Environmental archaeology
Introduction
From high alpine peaks to the deep oceans, human activities have transformed our
planet, with the effects projected to increase exponentially in the coming decades
and centuries. Climate change, pollution, habitat degradation, and decimation of
&Courtney A. Hofman
courtney.hofman@ou.edu
Torben C. Rick
rickt@si.edu
1
Department of Anthropology, University of Oklahoma, 455 W. Lindsey St., Norman,
OK 73019, USA
2
Department of Anthropology, National Museum of Natural History, MRC 112, Smithsonian
Institution, Washington, DC 20013-7012, USA
123
J Archaeol Res (2018) 26:65–115
https://doi.org/10.1007/s10814-017-9105-3
Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. Rights reserved.
... -Nlaka'pamux narrative, "Old-One and the Creation of the Nicola Country" (Teit 1912, 324) "Someone should go and adopt a root from that plant" (A yellowfruited red elderberry growing at Prince Rupert, to the north of Hartley Bay). -Mildred Wilson, Ts'msyen Gitga'at Nation (personal communication to Nancy Turner, May 2002) F or millennia, Indigenous and local peoples around the world have intentionally transplanted seedlings, plant propagules (e.g., tubers, bulbs, rhizomes, seeds), cuttings, and young growing or mature plants from one place to another to facilitate access to valued species (e.g., Hofman and Rick 2018;Keener and Kuhns 1997;Silcock 2018). Such translocations have often involved food plants; however, plants used for technology and medicine have also been moved great distances, thereby increasing their range and accessibility (e.g., Nabhan 2002;Singh 2016;Turner and Loewen 1998). ...
... Biological invasions are one of the biggest threats to Earth's ecosystems (Hofman and Rick 2018). Understanding how and to what extent humans have altered and extended the range of plants, both intentionally and unintentionally, has important consequences for historical ecology, restoration ecology, conservation biology, and land-use planning. ...
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... The introduction of non-native species can have a severe impact on local biodiversity as well as ecosystem structure and function and can ultimately lead to extirpation, trophic cascades, and even extinction of native species (Gurevitch and Padilla, 2004;Hofman et al., 2015;Boivin et al., 2016;Barnosky et al., 2017). Improvements in the identification and tracking of introduced species are thus of critical concern for generating appropriate conservation strategies (Dietl and Flessa, 2011;Prendergast et al., 2017;Hofman and Rick, 2018). However, some issues are not always clear, such as knowing whether a species is introduced or endemic and the effect it had on the local ecosystems (Barak et al., 2016;Barnosky et al., 2017). ...
... Speciesspecific palaeoproteomic identification of milk proteins in human dental calculus (Wilkin et al., 2020Bleasdale et al., 2021) has further contributed to this effort and is particularly useful in regions where zooarchaeological evidence is lacking for taphonomic or cultural reasons. Studying the introduction of domesticated species is critical to conservation efforts as many have played a significant role in transforming local ecosystems Hofman and Rick, 2018). The introduction of herd animals, for example, has shaped the formation of open landscapes (Ventresca Miller et al., 2020) as well as soil enriched hotspots (Marshall et al., 2018), and in many of the world's islands, domesticated and commensal species introduced by early colonizing populations have had a significant impact on endemic plant and animal populations . ...
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... Intentional and accidental human-mediated plant translocations drastically increased with the emergence and spread of agriculture and pastoralism in the Early to Middle Holocene (Boivin et al., 2016;Hofman & Rick, 2018). Large-scale movements of non-domesticated plants began much later as trade routes from Europe to the New World expanded and European colonies were settled around the globe (Mack & Lonsdale, 2001;Le Maitre et al., 2004). ...
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... Humans have always transported useful plant and animal species from place to place, either domestic (Merrill et al., 2009;Zeder, 2008) or wild (Corona-Santiago et al., 2015;Detry et al., 2018;Matisoo-Smith & Robins, 2004). Historical ecology approaches allow introducing a long-term view in the study of biological invasions that may aid in the understanding of human-driven disruptions of biodiversity patterns (Haubrock et al., 2021;Hofman & Rick, 2018) and to solve the status (i.e. native vs. non-native) of taxa when uncertainties exist Masseti et al., 2010). ...
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... Examples include the local extinction of native fauna that may be caused by hunting or the introduction of novel predators (Anderson, 2009;Steadman et al., 2002). More serious problems arise if the colonizers are farmers who bring exotic plants with them and introduce new practices such as slash-and-burn forestry (Fitzpatrick, 2015;Fitzpatrick and Keegan, 2007;Giovas et al., 2012;Hofman and Rick, 2018;Laffoon et al., 2015;Louys et al., 2021;Takamiya, 2006). ...
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