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Qualities and Contributions of Agroforestry Practices and Novel Forests in Pre-European Polynesia and the Polynesian Outliers

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Agroforestry systems have long played a central role in Polynesian societies, contributing to food production, building and craft production, and ritual activities. Until recently, however, archaeological studies of these important systems were limited. Recent methodological improvements and a growing number of macro- and micro-botanical studies have provided opportunities for a more empirical exploration of the role of agroforestry in pre-European Polynesia. Here we integrate the findings of several key studies to assess the qualities and contributions of agroforestry across the region. We highlight the expansive and enduring qualities of these systems and contrast them with other forms of production used in this region. Overall, processes of novel forest formation in Polynesia shared key characteristics that affected a suite of activities ranging from subsistence practices to the construction of cultural landscapes. Integration of agroforestry research ultimately provides a nuanced understanding of landscape transformations that are broadly characteristic of island socio-ecosystems.
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1 23
Human Ecology
An Interdisciplinary Journal
ISSN 0300-7839
Hum Ecol
DOI 10.1007/s10745-019-00110-x
Qualities and Contributions of Agroforestry
Practices and Novel Forests in Pre-
European Polynesia and the Polynesian
Outliers
Seth Quintus, Jennifer Huebert, Patrick
V.Kirch, Noa Kekuewa Lincoln & Justin
Maxwell
1 23
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Qualities and Contributions of Agroforestry Practices and Novel
Forests in Pre-European Polynesia and the Polynesian Outliers
Seth Quintus
1
&Jennifer Huebert
2
&Patrick V. Kirch
1
&Noa Kekuewa Lincoln
3
&Justin Maxwell
2
#Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019
Abstract
Agroforestry systems have long played a central role in Polynesian societies, contributing to food production, building and craft
production, and ritual activities. Until recently, however, archaeological studies of these important systems were limited. Recent
methodological improvements and a growing number of macro- and micro-botanical studies have provided opportunities for a
more empirical exploration of the role of agroforestry in pre-European Polynesia. Here we integrate the findings of several key
studies to assess the qualities and contributions of agroforestry across the region. We highlight the expansive and enduring
qualities of these systems and contrast them with other forms of production used in this region. Overall, processes of novel forest
formation in Polynesia shared key characteristics that affected a suite of activities ranging from subsistence practices to the
construction of cultural landscapes. Integration of agroforestry research ultimately provides a nuanced understanding of land-
scape transformations that are broadly characteristic of island socio-ecosystems.
Keywords Agroforestry .Archaeology .Arboriculture .Novel Forests .Polynesia
Introduction
Humans are so successful at creating novel ecosystems that
entire landscapes and environments can be described as do-
mesticated (Chase 1989; Terrell et al.2003;Yen1989). Often,
the formation of domesticated landscapes modifies ecosystem
structure and function through the alteration of vegetation
from a natural composition to an economically dominant suite
of plants. Trees are keystones of these environments, and
large-scale changes in their distribution and composition af-
fect many biotic and abiotic components of ecosystems
through cascading effects (Poch and Simonetti 2013). The
process of landscape domestication creates vegetation patterns
referred to as novel forests, defined as persistent forests that
result from human activity and include a mix of introduced
andnativetaxa(Lugo2013). Once created, novel forests en-
dure and replace the ecosystem services of native forests and
serve additional functions (Lugo 2009;Mascaroet al.2012).
They are typically perceived by outsiders to be naturalized or
even Bwild,^but indigenous knowledge systems proclaim
and research has demonstrated their association with former
agroforestry practices in several regions of the world (e.g.,
Balée and Erickson 2006; Ford and Nigh 2015; Kennedy
and Clarke 2004; van der Warker 2005).
Trees have long been appreciated as important components
of production systems in pre-European Polynesia (Kirch
1982;Yen1973b) and their cultivation is referred to in a va-
riety of ways (e.g., orchard gardening, arboriculture). We use
the term agroforestry to refer to cultivation practices that are
predominately arboreal-based where the manipulation, main-
tenance, and extraction of forest ecosystems are key goals (see
Hviding and Bayliss-Smith 2000; Terrell et al.2003). Even
though the importance of these practices is recognized, re-
search by archaeologists on Polynesian agroforestry has been
extremely limited in contrast with root crop cultivation sys-
tems (see discussion in Huebert 2014; Kennedy 2012;
Maxwell 2015). Agroforestry systems are sidelined in theoret-
ical discussions because they do not fit neatly within available
conceptual categories (e.g., intensification) of food production
(Kennedy 2012; but see Yen 1974). The focus on intensified
cropping in contrastive wet and dry environments (irrigation
*Seth Quintus
squintus@hawaii.edu
1
Department of Anthropology, University of HawaiiatMānoa,
Honolulu, HI, USA
2
International Archaeological Research Institute, Inc., Honolulu, HI,
USA
3
Department of Tropical Plant and Soil Sciences, University of
HawaiiatMānoa, Honolulu, HI, USA
Human Ecology
https://doi.org/10.1007/s10745-019-00110-x
Author's personal copy
in the former, dryland field systems in the latter) has relegated
agroforestry to secondary or supplementary resources,
resulting in a significant gap in our understanding of the eco-
nomic and ecological consequences of human land use in pre-
European Polynesia.
A surge in agroforestry research has taken place in the
Pacific in the last decade. Improvements in remote sensing
and archaeobotanical analyses have challenged and modified
previous perspectives on the long-term history and the devel-
opment of agroforestry on several islands (Dotte-Sarout and
Kahn, 2017; Huebert and Allen 2016,2019; Lincoln and
Ladefoged 2014;Maxwell2015). This research creates oppor-
tunities to address critical questions relating to the patterning,
use, and importance of agroforestry at a regional scale. We
argue that the best way to understand agroforestry and novel
forests in Polynesia is as low-labor multi-generational re-
sources, which comprise a particular form of biotic landscape
capital (see discussion in Brookfield 2001:184; Erickson
2008:161), distinct from the better-known geomorphic
landesque capital characterized by a permanent infrastructure
of terraces, canals, or field systems (Blaikie and Brookfield
1987). This is a form of incremental capital (after Doolittle
1984) that possesses enduring and expansive characteristics.
Several characteristics of agroforestry practices and the novel
forests that result are complementary to other forms of pro-
duction, while their emergent qualities affect economies and
local environments over long periods. We first discuss the
qualities of agroforestry across Polynesia and the Polynesian
outliers, after which we explore agroforestryscontributionto
economic production, long-term resource availability, and cul-
tural landscape construction.
The Qualities of Agroforestry in Pre-European
Polynesia
Polynesia forms the eastern region of Oceania (Fig. 1) and it is
split into two sub-regions: West Polynesia (e.g., Tonga, Sāmoa,
Futuna, Uvea) and East Polynesia (e.g., Society Islands,
Marquesas, Hawaii, New Zealand, Rapa Nui). This division
is based primarily on culture-historical factors rather than sim-
ple geography, and the sub-regions have archaeological se-
quences of considerably different time spans. West Polynesia
was settled from islands to the west (e.g., the region extending
from the Bismarck Archipelago to Vanuatu) around 2850 years
ago as part of the Lapita diaspora (Burley et al.2015). In
contrast, East Polynesia was settled ~1800 years later, with
the apices of the Polynesian triangle (Hawaii, New Zealand,
and Rapa Nui) settled between the tenth to the thirteenth cen-
turies AD (Athens et al.2014;Wilmshurstet al.2011).
Populations in East Polynesia stem either from West
Polynesia directly or via a group of islands called the
Polynesian outliers (Kirch 2017; Wilson 2012). Outliers are
islands whose populations speak Polynesian languages and
exhibit Polynesian cultural traits, but are geographically locat-
ed outside and to the west of the Polynesian Triangle. The two
outliers of focus here (Tikopia and Anuta) were originally set-
tled as part of the Lapita diaspora around 28003000 years ago
(Kirch 1984; Kirch and Swift 2017), with later arrival and
integration of groups from West Polynesia occurring in the late
first and early second millennia AD.
Most of the agroforest tree species in Polynesia were first
domesticated or brought under cultivation in the Southeast
Asia-Near Oceania region and transported into the Pacific
with human migration (Kirch 2017). Tree crops were a ma-
jor element of the Lapita subsistence strategy (Kirch 1989;
Matthews and Gosden 1997), and following dispersal, ele-
ments of agroforestry practices were nearly ubiquitous
across Polynesia. Some of these trees might have been dis-
persed at times by agents other than humans (Fall et al.
2007: Appendix 1); however, the association of persistent
novel forests with former human land use implies that their
distributions were largely human-mediated (Huebert and
Allen 2019;Quintus2018). Here we focus our discussion
on the best-documented cases to illustrate the diversity of
agroforestry practices (Table 1). The emphasis is on food-
producing trees, though taxa with other functions are also
discussed (Table 2).
West Polynesia and the Polynesian Outliers
West Polynesia and the Polynesian outliers constitute the ear-
liest occupations reviewed herein. Although they include lon-
ger agricultural sequences than elsewhere, the process of nov-
el forest development was protracted and large-scale modified
forests do not appear in most islands until the late first and
early second millennia AD. By European contact, however,
agroforestry systems were well established and contributed
significantly to ecological and economic systems on most of
these islandsespecially those of smaller size.
The Polynesian outlier Tikopia offers a classic case study.
Early documentation recognized a Bhigh state of economic
utilization^(Firth 1936:375), dominated by a form of tree
cropping first described as Borchard gardening^(Firth 1936,
1965). A detailed ethnobotanical study by Kirch and Yen
(1982) showed that the islands novel forest mosaic,
consisting of 19 species of tree crops, covered 95% of the
island (Kirch 2007:90). The dominant economic tree was
breadfruit (Artocarpus altilis), with coconut (Cocos nucifera)
also important (Kirch and Yen 1982). The agroforestry system
also included the more widespread Tahitian chestnut
(Inocarpus fagifer)andvīapple (Spondias dulcis, syn.
cythere), and trees typically not found in Polynesia proper,
such as the sago palm (Metroxylon salomonense),betel nut
(Areca catechu),and Nali nut or canarium almond (Canarium
indicum)(KirchandYen1982:33; Kirch 1994:300301).
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These trees were grown in permanent multi-story gardens with
understory crops of banana (Musa spp.),giant swamp taro
(Cyrtosperma merkusii),and yam (Dioscorea spp.) grown
between and under larger trees (Kirch 1994:291). Kirch and
Yen ( 1982:38) note that these multi-story forests Bmimic the
mixed nature of the low-altitude forest associations typical of
the Solomon Islands flora, not only in tree species, but also in
the subcanopy.^Humans dispersed some native trees, both on
the mountain slopes and the coast, through seeding. For ex-
ample, the Alexandrian laurel (Calophyllum inophyllum)isa
natural component of the strand vegetation but was intention-
ally planted by seed in coastal and inland locations to increase
the abundance of its desirable wood (prized for canoe hulls)
and to stabilize the coastal beach ridges (Kirch and Yen
1982:28). Leaf-lined subterranean pits or silos for the fermen-
tation of starches, notably breadfruit and banana, wereused on
Tikopia as an important reserve for seasonal food supplies
(Kirch and Yen 1982:4345).
Agroforestry was widespread in West Polynesia and the
Polynesian outliers, but research in locations outside Tikopia
is more limited. As in Tikopia, agroforestry on the West
Polynesian island of Futuna was constituted by breadfruit
and coconut (Kirch 1978), between and underneath which
were grown banana (both Eumusa and Australimusa forms),
giant taro (Alocasia macrorrhizos), and several species of
yams (Kirch 1994:181). Tree crops were planted amongst
residential units situated along the coast, as well as more ex-
tensive plantings throughout the zone of cookhouses inland of
the dwellings, and again at the base of the mountain slopes
(Kirch 1994:181) (Fig. 2). Similar zonal distributions and spe-
cies appear to have existed in Sāmoa based on ethnographic
evidence and the present extent of vegetation (Krämer 1902-
03;Quintus2018). While also similar on the western outlier of
Anuta (Yen 1973a), where agroforestry with understory crops
(Fig. 3) was key to maintaining one of the highest population
densities in the Pacific, a slight deviation is apparent wherein
root crops were grown in intensive, short-fallow plots on the
higher elevation plateau of the island. The extent of unmodi-
fied forests on Anuta, as well as on Ofu/Olosega in the
Manua Group of American Sāmoa, is extremely limited be-
cause of small island size (Yen 1973a; Quintus 2018), making
them more similar to Tikopia than to Futuna in the relative
Fig. 1 Map of Oceania with major locations discussed in the text
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degree of vegetation modification. Close associations between
domestic and tree-cropping areas have been noted for Tonga
as well, where haphazard arrangements of breadfruit and co-
conut trees were associated with residential units (Beaglehole
1967:934), while other early visitors documented the presence
of economic trees at the margins of tuber gardens (La
Billardiere 1800:378; La Perouse 1799:171).
The temporal development of novel forests in West
Polynesia and the Outliers remains poorly understood. First
millennium BC introductions of breadfruit, vīapple, and
Tahitian chestnut have been demonstrated for Tonga (Ussher
2015:221232). The archaeobotanical record further suggests
multi-story gardens that integrated arboreal species with un-
derstory crops were created early in the Tongan sequence
(Ussher 2015:235236, 251, 266), with economic trees pres-
ent thereafter in different quantities (Fall 2010:263267). In
the Manua islands of Sāmoa, charred breadfruit wood has
been directly dated to only within the last 1000 years
(Quintus 2018); similarly, agroforestry on Tikopia did not
become dominant until after about AD 900 (Kirch and Yen
1982:350355; Kirch 1994:301302). There, a decline and
then total cessation of the use of fire (i.e., swidden, or shifting
cultivation) in the islands production systems marks the
transition.
The remains of fermentation pits also provide some evi-
dence of temporal trends. On Tikopia, these pits become com-
mon after AD 1200, reflecting an increased reliance on bread-
fruit or bananas (Kirch 1994:303; Kirch and Yen 1982:333).
On Futuna, multiple storage pits have been dated to the end of
the first millennium AD (Frimigacci 1990:168169) implying
more intensive tree cropping by that time. Finally, on the
western islands of the Sāmoan archipelago, storage pits may
date to as early as the first millennium BC (Green 2002),
potentially suggesting early reliance on some tree species, or
possibly banana.
Central East Polynesia
Nowhere in Polynesia has agroforestry been better document-
ed, both ethnographically and archaeologically, than in the
Marquesas and Society Islands. European explorers
commented repeatedly on the magnitude and productivity of
agroforestry systems in these islands, where breadfruit was
emphasized (de Bougainville, 1772; Forster 2000; Robarts
1974). Several visitors were struck by the spatial extent of
these systems, particularly in the Marquesas, where they gave
the appearance of an entirely cultivated landscape (von
Krusenstern, 1813:12414).
The prominence of breadfruit in the Marquesas and Society
Islands is inferred, in part, by the prevalence of fermentation
pits (see Huebert 2014 for Marquesas; Kahn 2005:160163
for Society Islands). This is especially true for the Marquesas
where such pits reached diameters as large as 10 m (Handy
Table 1 Natural and cultural characteristics of locations discussed in text
Island Group Type Location Date Settled Substrate
Ages
Rainfall
Range
Land
Area
Primary Food Crop (s) Widespread
Storage?
References for
Date Settled
Tikopia Singe Island Polynesian Outlier 30002700 BP < 0.08 4000 4.6 Breadfruit, coconut, betel nut, Tahitian
chestnut, vīapple, sago palm
Present Kirch and Swift 2018
Anuta Single Island Polynesian Outlier 28002400 BP * 30003500 0.4 Breadfruit, coconut, betel nut, Tahitian
chestnut
Present Kirch 1984
Futuna Single Island West Polynesia 28002600 BP * 25003500 83 Breadfruit, coconut, Tahitian chestnut,
vīapple, mountain apple, Sago palm
Present Frimigacci 1990
Sāmoa Archipelago West Polynesia 28002600 BP 05.2 25006000 3050 Breadfruit, coconut, Tahitian chestnut,
vīapple, mountain apple
Present Petchey 2001
Tonga Archipelago West Polynesia 28502750 BP 04 17002970 700 Breadfruit, coconut, Tahitian chestnut,
vīapple, mountain apple
Present Burley et al.2015
Society Islands Archipelago Central East Polynesia 1000800 BP <1.04.5 12002000 1700 Breadfruit, coconut, vīapple, mountain
apple
Present Stevenson et al.2017
Mangareva Island Group Central East Polynesia 1000900 BP 5 25003500 29.6 Breadfruit, coconut, Tahitian chestnut Present Kirch et al.2010
Marquesas Archipelago Central East Polynesia 900700 BP 0.45.5 7001500 1050 Breadfruit, coconut Present Allen 2014
Hawaii Archipelago North Polynesia 950750 BP 05.1 20010,200 16,650 Breadfruit,coconut,candlenut Absent Athens et al.2014
Rēkohu Archipelago South Polynesia 500300 BP 4 9001500 950 Kōpi Present Maxwell 2015
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Table 2 List of taxa mentioned in text, with notes on primary uses and geographic range
Scientific Name Common Name Key Uses
a
Natural Range Relevant Extended Range
Aleurites moluccana Candlenut Raw material (lighting, dye/ink), lighting Tropical Asia Tropical Polynesia and Hawaii
Areca catechu Betel Nut Secondary food East Asia Polynesian Outliers and West
Polynesia
Artocarpus altilis Breadfruit Food, raw material, ritual Near Oceania and Southeast Asia Tropical Polynesia and Hawaii
Broussonetia papyrifera Indian mulberry Raw material (bark cloth) Japan or China Asia to Polynesia
Calophyllum inophyllum Alexandrian Laurel Raw material (timber, oil) Tropical East Africa to parts of East
Polynesia
Hawaii
Canarium indicum Nali nut Food, raw material Island Southeast Asia through Near
Oceania
Polynesian Outliers
Cocos nucifera Coconut Food, raw material (fiber), adornment Old World Tropics to parts of East
Polynesia
Polynesia
Corynocarpus laevigatus Kōpi (karaka in New Zealand) Food New Zealand Rēkohu
Fagraea berteroana Pua, pua kenikeni (Hawaii),
perfume-flower tree
Raw material (timber), ornamental Fiji to the Marquesas Hawaii (Modern)
Ficus prolixa Polynesian banyan Raw material (bark cloth), ritual New Caledonia to the Marquesas NA
Hibiscus rosa-sinensis Red hibiscus Ornamental Old World Tropics Tropical Polynesia
Hibiscus tiliaceus Beach hibiscus Raw material (fiber) Old World Tropics to Eastern
Polynesia
Hawaii
Inocarpus fagifer Tahitian chestnut Food, raw material (timber) Indo-Malaysia Tropical Polynesia
Metrosideros polymorpha ōhi a lehua Raw material, ornamental HawaiiNA
Metroxylon vitiense Sago palm (ota in Futunan) Food, raw material Fiji Futuna
Metroxylon salomonense Sago palm Food, raw material Near Oceania Polynesian Outliers
Morinda citrifolia Noni, Indian mulberry Raw material (dye), medicinal, secondary food Southeast Asia Tropical Polynesia and Hawaii
Pandanus tectorius Screwpine Raw material (fiber), secondary food, adornment Tropical Africa to Polynesia NA
Pipturus albidus Waimea pipturus Medicinal HawaiiNA
Pritchardia pacifica Pacific fan palm Secondary food, ornamental Tonga West Polynesia
Schizostachyum glaucifolium Polynesian bamboo Raw material Fiji Tropical Polynesia and Hawaii
Spondias dulcis syn. Cythere Vīapple (also, Otaheite apple) Food Indo-Malaysia Tropical Polynesia
Syzygium malaccense Mountain apple Food, raw material Indonesia Tropical Polynesia and Hawaii
Thespesia populnea Pacific rosewood Raw material (timber), dye Tropical Africa to parts of East
Polynesia
Areas of East Polynesia
Touchardia latifolia OlonāRaw material (fiber) HawaiiNA
a
Many plants had medicinal and minor utilitarian uses not noted herein
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1923:188189). Storage at such a scale was necessary given
environmental and climatic fluctuations that resulted in variabil-
ity in food production in the Marquesan archipelago (Allen
2010;Kirch1982:3), but large stores were also an important
source of chiefly influence in both the Marquesas and Society
Islands (Kahn et al.2014:256; Kirch 1991:128129). In addi-
tion to breadfruit, coconut was a significant part of these sys-
tems, as were other arboreal crops including candlenut
(Aleurites moluccana), mountain apple (Syzygium malaccense),
and Tahitian chestnut (albeit possibly at a later time; see
Huebert and Allen 2016; Dotte-Sarout and Kahn 2017:17),
with understory crops also playing an important role (e.g., ba-
nana, taro) (Lepofsky 1999,2003;alsoseeAddison2006).
At least two agroforestry techniques were utilized in these
island groups: house gardens and expansive patches of novel
forests. House gardens were located close to habitations and
were more intensively managed (Lepofsky 1999). Early
European visitors noted that in these house gardens, understo-
ry crops such as taro and paper mulberry were planted along-
side fruit trees in dense concentrations (von Krusenstern,
1813:125; Lisiansky 1814:73). The expansive systems, in
contrast, appear to have been less diverse and focused largely
on breadfruit, coconut, and banana, covering most valley
floors and hillslopes at the time of European contact (Forster
2000:336; Lepofsky 1999).
Trees evidenced by archaeobotanical materials found in the
region (Dotte-Sarout and Kahn 2017; Huebert 2014)provided
a variety of other resources as well. In Central East Polynesia,
these plants include several types of hibiscus (Hibiscus spp.),
screwpine (Pandanus spp.), Pacific rosewood (Thespesia
populnea), Alexandrian laurel,Polynesian bamboo, noni
(Morinda citrifolia), and several others (Table 2). Breadfruit
wood, for example, was used as posts for dwellings in elite
structures (Kahn and Coil 2006). There is also evidence that
trees defined culturally important spaces, as the planting of
Alexandrian laurel might have been restricted to places used
by persons of higher social status (Huebert 2014:273; Kahn
and Coil 2006).
Agroforestry systems, and consequent novel forests, were
widespread in Central East Polynesia outside the better-
documented cases. For instance, the Mangareva (Gambier)
Islands of southeastern Polynesia documented a subsistence
system in which breadfruit and other tree crops, including
coconut and Tahitian chestnut, played a dominant role.
Hiroa (1938) describes the traditional subsistence system in
which breadfruit (again frequently ensiled in storage pits,
Fig. 4) was the most important crop, augmented by other tree
crops and by small irrigated systems for taro cultivation. Such
examples, even if not well documented at present, attest to a
wide distribution and overall importance of novel forests and
agroforestry practices in this area.
Recent archaeological research has begun unraveling the
temporal development of these systems in Central East
Polynesia. For Maupiti Island in the Societies, forest structure
appears to havechanged shortly after the first settlement of the
island in the thirteenth to fourteenth centuries, with novel for-
est landscapes in place by the seventeenth century (Dotte-
Sarout and Kahn 2017). The diversity of plant species found
in archaeobotanical assemblages is indicative of a mixed ex-
ploitation strategy in a mosaic landscape that incorporated
Fig. 2 Zonation of arboriculture and irrigation on Futuna in 1974. In the
foreground is the Aloalo (hillslope) arboriculture zone, dominated by
breadfruit (the main crowns visible) with some coconut and understory
of bananas and yams. Beyond that is the zone of irrigated pondfields, and
then the village arboricultural zone, with breadfruit, coconut, and various
other fruit and nut trees. Photograph taken by Patrick Kirch
Fig. 3 A view directly into the agroforestry zones of Anuta in 1971.
Visible is the understory of giant swamp taro as well as a canopy of
breadfruit and betel palms. Photograph taken by Patrick Kirch
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different stages of agroforest development, including fallow
(Dotte-Sarout and Kahn 2017:1718). Vegetation changes
were not only geared toward creating food-producing land-
scapes; evidence suggests propagation of ritually charged
but also economically importantplants (e.g., banyan trees,
pua kenikeni or perfume-flower tree [Fagraea berteroana]) to
define social space over time (Dotte-Sarout and Kahn,
2017:1617). Evidence of the temporal development of agro-
forestry is also available from Moorea and Tahiti. Breadfruit
and Tahitian chestnut were present after the fifteenth century
in the Opunohu Valley of Moorea (Lepofsky 1994:291292;
Lepofsky et al.1996), and agroforestry practices had expand-
ed across inland slopes of the island by the fifteenth to the
seventeenth centuries (Kahn et al.2015). On Tahiti, breadfruit
is noted by the fourteenth century and continues into contem-
porary times, with the presence of Tahitian chestnut noted
later (Orliac 1997).
A protracted developmental sequence of forest develop-
ment, involving several overlapping processes, is also well
documented for the Marquesas (Huebert and Allen 2016,
2019). Reductions and even extirpation of some native arbo-
real species were noted in coastal and lowland forests of Nuku
Hiva within a few centuries of settlement (Huebert 2015). This
spatially extensive analysis also demonstrated that economic
trees were established very early in the cultural sequence,
alongside several root crops (Allen and Ussher 2013).
Evidence points to a rapid dispersal and increasing uptake of
tree crops in the fifteenth century in multiple locations, fol-
lowing forest clearance and repetitive burning, with arboricul-
ture centered on breadfruit coming to dominate these land-
scapes by the mid-seventeenth century. Huebert and Allen
(2016:92) also noted that several cultivated trees, most impor-
tantly Tahitian chestnut, might not have been introduced until
late prehistory, as other researchers have noted for Central
East Polynesia.
Finally, a stratified sequence of macro- and micro-botanical
remains from Agakauitai Island in the Mangareva group doc-
uments the gradual emergence of a novel forest over six cen-
turies, beginning around AD 1200 (Kirch et al.2015). The
early archaeobotanical assemblage is dominated by indige-
nous trees such as Beach hibiscus and Pacific rosewood, but
also includes Polynesian-introduced coconut, candlenut, and
the medicinal shrub or small tree noni. The frequency of
breadfruit wood charcoal rises significantly over time, sugges-
tive of its increasing prevalence in agroforestry.
North Polynesia
The Hawaiian archipelago defines the northern extent of
Polynesia. Much attention has been paid to the archipelagos
labor-intensive rain-fed and irrigated systems that were devel-
oped across the islands (Ladefoged et al.2009), as these have
been linked to the rise of social inequality and political com-
plexity (Hommon 2013;Kirch2010). Less attention has been
devoted to agroforestry even though multiple known agro-
ecological zones were associated with such practices (e.g.,
Lincoln and Ladefoged 2014; Winter and Lucas 2017).
As elsewhere in Polynesia, breadfruit is known to have
been one of the staple starches in the Hawaiian diet, but it
was not preferred (Handy et al.1972). Somewhat unique to
Hawai, however, was the presence of named breadfruit
groves on several islands (Cook 1784: 120; Handy et al.
1972:152153; Meilleur et al.2004:17), suggesting they were
seen as capital investments for food and non-food products.
On Hawaii Island, European explorers noted the high produc-
tivity of tree crops, and the growth of understory crops, in an
agroforestry belt termed the kaluulu (Kelly 1983;Menzies
1920). In addition to breadfruit, coconut and candlenut,
among others, are known to have been cultivated in this zone
(Lincoln and Ladefoged 2014:195). This system was spatially
distinct and dependent on elevation-based ecosystem changes
(Lincoln et al.2018). Here, trees were spaced further apart,
forming an open canopy that allowed greater light penetration
with intensive tree management that included pruning to
maintain a lower canopy height (Cook 1784). This form of
agroforestry contrasts with that practiced in West and Central
East Polynesia, as does the limited use, or even total absence,
of pit fermentation and storage of breadfruit. The reason for
this lack of storage is not known but could relate to the more
limited importance of breadfruit in the diet or the practice of
feeding excess breadfruit to pigs (Lincoln and Ladefoged
2014).
Outside defined agroforestry zones, a mix of more inten-
sive cultivation strategies and agroforestry were found in areas
of human habitation (Winter and Lucas 2017:470472).
Coconut was grown widely, especially along the coast and
Fig. 4 A large pit for breadfruit fermentation and storage in Rikitea,
Mangareva. The pit is part of a complex, including the Catholic
cathedral (built in the 1840s) and the kings residence. The cathedral
was built upon the foundation of the former marae (the most important
marae in Mangareva), thus the pit itself could well pre-date the missionary
period. Photograph taken by Patrick Kirch in 2012
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Author's personal copy
near coastal villages, as was pandanus. Large tracts of candle-
nut groves were grown to enhance soil fertility for the growth
of taro (Handy et al.1972:51). Recent research suggests that
the transition from these candlenut forests to mixed agrofor-
estry practices is associated with underlying soil fertility
(Lincoln in press). Colluvial slopes of river valleys and gentle
slopes in windward regions were planted with economic trees,
among other crops (Kurashima and Kirch 2011), in a way that
matched the closely spaced multi-story agroforests in West
and Central East Polynesia (Fig. 5). There is evidence from
Land Commission Award maps from the mid-nineteenth cen-
tury that patches of native forest were retained within some
heavily cultivated areas. In these situations, a native canopy,
typically of ōhi a lehua (Metrosideros polymorpha), was
retained as a habitat for medicinal and raw material plants
(e.g., Pipturus albidus, Touchardia latifolia). Tended novel
forests were present at higher elevations as well, outside areas
of direct human habitation, and were constituted by a mixture
of introduced and native species used for food, construction
materials, and medicine (Winter and Lucas 2017:462).
Coconut was transported with the initial island settlers, as
was candlenut (Athens et al.2014:147). According to oral
traditions and a limited number of dated samples, breadfruit
was brought late in the thirteenth century or slightly later
(McCoy et al.2010), though the tree is uncommon until the
fifteenth-sixteenth century (Allen and Murakami 1999:90).
Extensive investigation of archaeological charcoal in fire pits
on Oahu shows an increase in the use of introduced trees over
time, especially in and after the fifteenth century (Dye and
Sholin 2013). This temporal development is broadly consis-
tent with increases in the diversity of economic trees on
Kauai in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries (Kahn
et al.2016). Both of these studies speak to the relatively late
development of novel forests. Similarly, given the spatial scale
of the kaluulu, it is likely that it was only established after the
social developments that gave rise to considerable intergroup
cooperation, most likely no earlier than the sixteenth or sev-
enteenth century (Allen 2004:219; Lincoln and Ladefoged
2014:200).
South Polynesia
South Polynesia, defined as the southern sub-tropics, is at the
margin of food production in the region. As one consequence,
agroforestry in New Zealand focused on plants not available in
tropical Polynesia such as karaka (Māori) / kōpi (Moriori)
(Corynocarpus laevigatus),an endemic broad-leaf that pro-
duces an edible drupe (though the edible seeds required addi-
tional processing to remove toxins [see Bell 1974:329329]).
Leach and Stowe (2005: 21-23) argue convincingly for the
importance and partial domestication of karaka by pre-
European Maori. While native in the northern North Island,
the tree was widely translocated beyond its natural range
and is seen in dense concentrations often associated with settle-
ment areas (Leach and Stowe 2005:1417) and sweet potato
production (Leach and Stowe 2005:1819). Ethnographic ac-
counts of karaka document that the tree crop was part of a larger
subsistence practice that included gardening (Harris and Te
Whaiti 1996: 274, 276, 280). The practice, therefore, was sim-
ilar to those described elsewhere in the Eastern Pacific but
incorporated a local species in the place of tropical Polynesian
tree crops.
The pre-European importance and development of karaka/
kōpi agroforestry is best documented for Rēkohu (Chatham
Island) (Maxwell 2015; Maxwell et al.2016), where it is
known ethnographically as an important resource (Skinner
and Baucke, 1923; Williams 1898). The tree is not native to
the island and was transferred from mainland New Zealand
(Atherton et al. 2015). Once there, kōpi provided a significant
portion of food resources for the human population (Maxwell
2015:246249) and it exhibits larger drupescompared to main-
land New Zealand (Maxwell and Tromp 2016). The trees were
of such subsistence importance that they were avoided as
sources of fuel; forest management on Rēkohu also encour-
aged successional plants useful for fuel and species that were
wind resistant (Maxwell et al.2016:323). Maxwell (2015:261-
262) demonstrated that kōpi required careful management for
propagation to dominate the forest and the increased propaga-
tion of the tree was a strategy to increase survival in this island
Fig. 5 A maintained agroforestry
system on Maui island
representative of multi-story sys-
tems. This system includes giant
taro, taro, coconut, candlenut,
pandanus, ōhi a ai, Polynesian
bamboo, banana, ti, and hibiscus.
The maintained system is on
kuleana land, implying that it has
been passed down within a fami-
ly. Photograph taken by Noa
Lincoln
Hum Ecol
Author's personal copy
environment. The onset of forest modification to induce the
growth of kōpi appears to have begun shortly after island set-
tlement in the fifteenth to the seventeenth centuries and con-
tinued through human selection of management to European
contact. Kōpi became a major portion of the broadleaf forest by
late pre-European times (Fig. 6)(Maxwellet al.2016:308).
The Contributions of Agroforestry Practices
and Novel Forests
Novel ecosystems were widely created to facilitateand en-
hanceproduction across Polynesia. Landscape modifica-
tions such as terraces increased soil capture and reduced ero-
sion (Allen 2004). If mulched as well, these practices presum-
ably facilitated soil development and enhanced soil nutrients
(Lincoln and Vitousek 2016). In wet environments, terraces
were used to construct artificial pondfields connected to ca-
nals that directed water into systems from streams and other
sources (Addison 2006; Campbell 2003;Kirch1977;
Lepofsky 1994). Other forms of infrastructure, such as em-
bankments, mounds, and mulches, counteracted the impacts
of wind evaporation in dry landscapes (Barber 2013; Lincoln
et al.2018;Marshallet al.2017). Finally, pits were excavated
and organic media were created to cultivate root crops on
atolls (Chazine 2012) and also on young lava flows (Lincoln
in press).
What is often overlooked is the constructive nature of agro-
forestry practices that filled spatial gaps between and
complemented other production systems (Table 3). As with
walls, terraces, or other forms of production, trees are assets
that serve a variety of functions over long time periods
(Brookfield 2001), best characterized as incrementally created
landscape capital (see Doolittle 1984). Agroforestry practices
created novel forests that were extended and modified through
a process of accretion; over time, these actions transformed
previously unusable tracts of land into productive economic
landscapes. Few have recognized the importance of incremen-
tal forms of agroecological change characteristic of agroforest-
ry systems in the Pacific in contrast to the systematic and
formal construction of new dryland and wetland infrastructure.
The biotic components of incremental landscape capital pro-
vided enduring resources that structured and transformed eco-
logical systems and cultural practices throughout Polynesia.
The modern forests of most Polynesian islands offer evi-
dence of economic landscape development sequences that be-
gan with initial human settlement (see Figs. 2,3,5,6), and
there was a re-assortment and reduction in the number species
as populations moved eastward (see Kirch 1982;Yen1973b).
In contrast to rapid forest replacement, recent research shows
that the formation of novel forests on these islands was the
result of long-term processes of selection and management
that spanned centuries (e.g., Dotte-Sarout and Kahn 2017;
Dye and Sholin 2013; Huebert and Allen 2016; Kirch et al.
2015;Maxwellet al.2016). Still, the process occurred more
rapidly in the east than in the west. The use of many types of
plants, though principally breadfruit and coconut in most
places but kōpi in Rēkohu, created production systems where
labor, maintenance, and exploitation costs were low compared
to other types of cultivation (Lincoln and Ladefoged 2014). In
addition to supplying food, these systems formed reservoirs of
raw materials for construction, medicine, and ornamental use.
This enduring landscape capital enhanced economic and so-
cial production as well as ecosystem resilience.
Trees and Economic Production
An underappreciated aspect of agroforestry in Polynesia is its
broad spatial extent. Constraints of substrate age, precipita-
tion, elevation, soil quality, and evapotranspiration restricted
the distribution of intensive root crop production on
Polynesian islands (Vitousek et al.2014), but agroforestry
spanned nearly the entire range of diverse island and archipel-
ago landscapes encountered by settlers (Table 1). Such adapt-
ability allowed trees to fill spatial gaps in production systems,
principally vertical space and steep terrain, but also excessive-
ly rocky, infertile, cold, or saline lands; this ultimately in-
creased landscape-level productivity. It is no coincidence that
some of the highest population densities in the Pacific were
found on islands where agroforestry dominated, such as
Tikopia and Anuta (Kirch and Yen 1982;Yen1973a). In the
Society Islands, early European visitors were struck by the
distribution of economic resources in generally rough terrain
(Lepofsky 1999,2003). In locations with rugged topography,
as in the case of some Marquesan valleys or Sāmoan and
Tikopian hillslopes, agroforestry provided a means to cultivate
without environmental degradation, as tree roots helped to
stabilize soils. Perhaps more importantly, the low labor effort
required for agroforestry provided a way to cultivate steep
Fig. 6 One of the last remaining stands of old growth forests of kōpi on
Rēkohu, Kaingaroa Forest in 2017. Visible in the foreground is a rākau
momori (lit. Memorial tree). Photograph taken by Justin Maxwell
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Author's personal copy
terrain with limited labor inputs. Root crops can be grown in
these areas, but labor requirements increased as land becomes
steeper while land clearance destabilized slopes. This was also
the case in Hawaii, where breadfruit and other trees and
shrubs were grown on steeper valley slopes (Lincoln and
Vitou sek 2017:2223). Across the region, coastal plains also
were covered with breadfruit and coconut, which could grow
in nutrient-deficient calcareous sediments exposed to sea
spray and/or brackish water. In Hawaii, very young lava
flows with minimal soil development were brought into cul-
tivation only with the use of arboreal species, both directly
(Lincoln and Ladefoged 2014) and indirectly, as they were
sources of compost for built soils (Lincoln in press). This
filling of spatial gaps was especially important on small
islands such as Tikopia, Anuta, and the Manua Group of
American Sāmoa where high population densities were sup-
ported by extensive tree cropping (see Yen 1974).
Novel forests replace ecological functions of natural forests
(Smith et al.2012) and may even exceed levels of previous
functionality in some areas (Mascaro et al.2012). The main-
tenance and enhancement of ecosystem functions can increase
the long-term productivity of environments, in terms of hu-
man economic practices, through a variety of mechanisms.
Trees generally possess deep root systems that result in the
uplift of nutrients from considerable depth in the soil profile to
the surface (Jobbagy and Jackson 2001; Smith et al. 2012).
Trees and other vegetation may also increase the rate at which
parent material is weathered and reduce nutrient leaching
(Jobbagy and Jackson 2001). Nutrient-enhancement functions
were important where the conjunction of high rainfall and
relatively old substrate ages (e.g., Sāmoa, Societies,
Marquesas) reduced nutrient availability through leaching to
a point where root crop production could not otherwise be
practiced. The inclusion of trees that fix atmospheric nitrogen,
specifically the introduced and leguminous Tahitian chestnut
(Pauku 2006:6), enhanced these outcomes. Introduced
nitrogen-fixing trees can potentially lead to increased ecosys-
tem productivity (Mascaro et al.2012:234), and their incor-
poration likely helped to sustain nitrogen concentrations need-
ed for intensive cultivation. More generally, the use of trees in
multi-story gardens created a useful mulch used both in house
gardens and more expansive agroforestry systems (Handy
et al.1972; Lepofsky 1999;Lincolnin press). These ecosys-
tem services are not restricted to the past, and novel forests
continue to contribute to maintainingthe functionality of mod-
ern ecosystems in Polynesia.
The capacity of agroforests to produce food is critical to
discussions of surplus and its role in Polynesian political econ-
omies. Agroforestry production enhanced surplus through en-
during, high marginal returns (see Lincoln and Ladefoged
2014), especially because of the expansive nature of long-
lived resources such as trees. The contributions of tree-
cultivation systems reduced economic dependence on other
production strategies and provided the means to feed herds
of pigs that acted as wealth assets, especially in Hawaii
(Allen 2004:216; Dye 2014; Lincoln and Ladefoged
2014:200). Trees, groves, and plantations were seen as wealth
assets in their own right as well, controlled and employed by
elites and others. Elite control is indicated by the association
of these resources with named individuals in Hawaii, the
most well-known of which is the coconut grove Helemoa
planted by order of Kākuhihewa in what is now Honolulu
(Lincoln and Vitousek 2017). The spatial association between
agroforestry plots and political boundaries further suggests
that these resources were closely managed (Lincoln and
Ladefoged 2014; Lincoln in press). In the Marquesas, house
Table 3 Contrasts and complements between agroforestry and Oceanic root crop cultivation. Most of the contributions of agroforestry and novel
forests results from the extensive and enduring nature of these systems
Contribution of Agroforestry and Novel Forests Key Contrast(s) and Complements with Oceanic Root
Crop Cultivation
Spatial Extent of Production Extended cultivation outside nutrient sweet spots; used coastal
plains with high salinity and sand content; vertical production
High degree of adaptability and high species diversity
relative to root crops, agroforestry not wholly
constrained by nutrient thresholds
Political Economy High marginal returns increased surplus; fruits used to feed
wealth assets; forests were controlled by elites; woods as
means of craft production and ritual reproduction
Long-lived tree resources become multi-generational
and regenerating wealth assets contrasting with
annual root crops
Long-Term Production Deep root systems increased nutrient availability; trees leaves
acted as mulch; trees potential fixed atmospheric nitrogen
Improved growth of understory crops; created more
efficient nutrient cycling for sustainable production
relative to intensive root crop systems
Variance Reduction Created regenerating banks of resources; breadfruit was key
storage crop; diversity of exploited ecological locations
staggered harvest times
Storage of root crops relatively rare outside of New
Zealand and Anuta; root crop cultivation is generally
not self-propagating
Cultural Landscape Contributed to maintenance of group and individual memory;
thought of as ancestral objects; used as points of spatial
reference
Long-lived resources attached to the social memory of
groups and individuals contrasted with annual plants
and herbaceous perennials
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gardens were owned by individual families, but the large and
extensive plantations were controlled by the chiefs (Handy
1923:182).Control of fermented breadfruit stores alsobecame
a political strategy in the Society Islands, the Marquesas, and
Mangareva, exploiting the qualities of breadfruit as seasonal
and storable (Kahn et al.2014;Kirch1991). This is illustrated
especially well in Mangareva where large district fermentation
pits were given proper names, in a similar fashion to groves of
trees elsewhere, marking them as the property of corporate
groups under the control of chiefs (Hiroa 1938:207).
The use of trees and their products as wealth assets extends
beyond food production, and cultivated forest species were
associated with manifestations of power (e.g., monumental
architecture, ritual activities) (Dotte-Sarout and Kahn 2017;
Kahn and Coil 2006; Kolb and Murakami 1994;Millerstrom
2006). At times, the intersection between raw material use and
food production was used to create symbols of wealth.
Breadfruit wood was a prestigious construction material in
throughout the region (Hiroa 1930:1920; Kahn and Coil
2006:342); Whistler (2001:90) opines for Sāmoa that this
might relate to the fact that cutting the tree for use in building
results in a loss of productivity. Similarly, in the Society
Islands the use of highly prized native tree timbers (i.e.,
Calophyllum inophyllum, Fagraea berteroana) in construc-
tion is associated with prestige (Kahn and Coil 2006). The
political or ritual consumption of woods for non-subsistence
use demonstrated the control of both functional and symbolic
components of novel forests (e.g., the means of craft produc-
tion and the ritual means of cosmogonic reproduction). Such
control was highlighted through proxemics (Kahn and Coil
2006; Millerstrom 2006); archaeologically, this is manifested
in the spatial correlation of some species, in relic or
archaeobotanical form, with ritual architecture or elite struc-
tures (Dotte-Sarout and Kahn 2017).
Diversification and the Enduring Production
Reservoirs of Novel Forests
The ability of agroforestry to buffer environmental variability
in Oceania, both in and outside of Polynesia, has been noted
previously (Allen 2004;Latinis2000;Yen1974). These prac-
tices can be employed to minimize temporal variance as well
as reduce the risk of catastrophic loss. Planting of trees in-
creased crop diversity, the spatial diversity of a production
system, and the seasonal spread of harvest. Subsistence sys-
tem diversification, as defined by Latinis (2000), aids in re-
ducing the effects of hazards that impact particular crops or
cultivation techniques. Several authors have argued that
variance-minimization might have been the impetus for the
original investments in Polynesian agroforestry (Allen 2004;
Huebert 2014). For instance, Huebert (2014:292) notes the
ability of some trees to persist through droughts (e.g., bread-
fruit) and others to produce in inundated environments (e.g.,
Tahitian chestnut). Over time, the expansive qualities of
agroforests created an opportunity for the exploitation of mul-
tiple ecological zones. Not only are place-specific hazards
mitigated by this strategy, but ecological differences in the
location of agroforestry resources can also result in staggered
harvest times that maintain the availability of food resources
(Lepofsky 2003:86).
Enduring novel forests enable food buffering in a way other
techniques do not, owing to their regeneration year after year
with minimal (or no) labor inputs. The preservation of native
forest within otherwise cultivated zones in Hawaii indicates a
desire to create easily exploitable resource reservoirs. In times
of need, these enduring Bstored^or Bbanked^resources can be
called upon. For example, tree fruits and seeds such as panda-
nus, noni, and Pacific fan palm (Pritchardia pacifica)
plants that are generally not part of the subsistence economy
were used in times of famine in Sāmoa (Whistler 2001:46
47). The continued management of these tree species owes
much to their myriad uses for raw materials or in medicinal
preparations, and, as a by-product, result in their availability to
provide famine foods. Similarly, the economic trees that are
part of fallow systems after root crops are no longer actively
cultivated, as in the case of Futuna (Kirch 1994), create pro-
duction reservoirs that can be tapped in times of shortfall.
A component of these systems is the capacity for fruits
such as breadfruit to be stored in subterranean pits (Cox
1980), or processed kōpi drupes to provide storable food for
as long as several years (Salmon 2001). There is little doubt
that the capacity for storage led to the widespread cultivation
of breadfruit (Kirch 2006:204), especially in locations suscep-
tible to environmental unpredictability such as the Marquesas
(Allen 2010;Huebert,2014:292293) and Tikopia (Kirch and
Yen 1982:4346). Furthermore, storage allowed for the effi-
cient use of seasonal crops like breadfruit, mitigating seasonal
gluts and avoiding substantial losses from rot. Storage of kōpi
on temperate Rēkohu functioned in a similar way, though with
starker seasonality. In fact, given its nutritional characteristics
and the limited alternative sources of starch and carbohy-
drates, the long-term sustainability of settlement was predicat-
ed on this process (Maxwell 2015:279281).
Construction of Cultural Landscapes
In addition to their key role with respect to economic and
ecological systems, agroforestry shaped the creation of social
landscapes in Polynesia. People use trees to create places
(Jones and Cloke 2002) through the production of meaning
and reference points that are socially important (Pearce et al.
2015). Generation of novel forests inscribed history and cre-
ated a relationship with the past (Hviding and Bayliss-Smith
2000:811), represented by place names and associations with
extended families. In Polynesia, the symbolic construction of
environments is a component of the transported landscape
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Author's personal copy
(after Kirch 1982). The growth of native and introduced trees
was one of the mechanisms by which humans constructed
these symbolic landscapes, principally along with stone archi-
tecture, which were tied to cultural memory and spatial logic.
Novel forests created and structured the cultural environ-
ment within which people lived in ways that were unlike other
cultivated spaces because they endured over generations.
Individuals planted economic trees on the property of others
to enhance their reputations across generations (Firth
1965:263). The planting of the tree, and the subsequent pro-
duction reaped by the family on whose land on which it was
planted, translated to the construction of individual and group
social capital in a way not documented for other forms of
production. This was done only with long-lived trees to pro-
long the memorial to the individual who planted it.
Across Polynesia and the Outliers, populations constructed
sacred placesthrough the management of trees. In some cases,
sacred groves were homes to spirits, with the consumption of
products from these forests tightly controlled (Olson 1997). In
other places, native and introduced trees served as ritual
markers in conjunction with architecture (Dotte-Sarout and
Kahn 2017:1017; Handy 1923:119; Kahn and Coil 2006;
Millerstrom 2006:290). Trees were used also to humanize
the environment, illustrated on Rēkohu through the practice
of carving on living trees (Fig. 6). These carvings, or rākau
momori, provided a tangible link between different time pe-
riods, and modern-day groups inhabiting Rēkohu maintain an
interpretation of these carvings as representations of ancestors
and events (Barber 2012:447). The association of these trees
with ancestors and the past more generally contributes to the
maintenance of individual and group identity.
Polynesian spatial logic moderated normal activity outside
defined sacred areas and novel forests served as reference
points as people moved through these different spaces.
Different vegetation compositions were components of
socio-ecological zonation that structured human activity
(Kirch 1994; Olson 1997; Winter and Lucas 2017). This is
not to say that boundaries were immutable, as they certainly
were dynamic, but rather that boundaries depended partially
on the active use of enduring resources. Trees remain an im-
portant component of modern cultural landscape construction
in Polynesia (Barber et al.2014) that should, and does, inform
contemporary forest management policies (Maxwell 2017;
Winter and Lucas 2017).
Conclusions
Research in the tropics and sub-tropics has globally illustrated
how human production systems have come to dominate eco-
systems through long-term management and selection pro-
cesses (Balée and Erickson 2006; Ford and Nigh 2015). The
development of these landscapes is, at least in some sense, a
form of enduring capital investment subsequently transmitted
to the next generation for future modification (see Brookfield
2001;Erickson2008:161), and trees were an important part of
these systems. Agroforestry was once widespread in
Polynesia, which allows usto better understand and appreciate
the composition of contemporary vegetation communities
and ultimately the ecosystem functionality that exists today
throughout the region. Trees are multi-generational resources
grown in a wide range of ecological conditions. We have
demonstrated that in Polynesia, these systems share key fun-
damental characteristics but have variable components, which
have made them an important avenue to investigate the vari-
ous ways novel forests relate to long-term economic and eco-
logical processes. For centuries, agroforestry practices and the
novel forests that endured on these landscapes provided the
bulk of raw materials people used for subsistence, craft, con-
struction, and ritual activities. Fully acknowledging the role of
agroforestry in Polynesia and integrating details of its devel-
opment and use into studies of human history provides a more
nuanced understanding of the ecological and cultural histories
of the islands and contributes to contemporary management of
the regions diverse forests. This research also makes a con-
tribution to our understanding of key long-term processes that
occur in island socio-ecosystems.
Acknowledgements We thank Jim Bayman, Tom Dye, and two anony-
mous reviewers for helpful comments on prior drafts of this
manuscript. All authors would like to thank and acknowledge the support
of indigenous communities with whom they have worked across
Polynesia. JJM, in particular, acknowledges the support of the Hokotehi
Moriori Trust as the legal representative of the Moriori people and as full
partners in the research on Rēkohu.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of interest The authors declare that they have no financial or
non-financial conflicts of interest.
Informed consent No informed consent was necessary for this study.
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... In addition to being a core crop, kukui was an essential part of arboricultural and other agricultural systems (Handy and Handy 1972, Lincoln and Ladefoged 2014, Lincoln 2020a. As with other locations in the Pacific, it is thought that the conversion of native to novel forest ecosystems was an accumulated process that paralleled shifts in the sociopolitical state of the society (Dye and Sholin 2013, Quintus et al. 2019, Huebert and Allen 2020. In Hawai'i, several forms of arboriculture manifested, including vast kukui-dominated forests that are described in several locations (Handy andHandy 1972, Lincoln 2020a). ...
... Unfortunately, despite its detailed documentation and discussion, kukui appears sparsely in the historical literature, with only minimal treatment by Dr. Craighill Handy (Handy 1940, Handy andHandy 1972), David Malo (Malo 1903), Dr. Marion Kelly (Kelly 1983), and others. Previous reviews and research on Hawaiian arboricultural adaptation (Lincoln and Ladefoged 2014, Lincoln and Vitousek 2017, Quintus et al. 2019, Lincoln 2020a) summarized resources on the extent and application of these systems in Hawai'i and also contributed to the foundation of the ethnohistorical review. ...
... To date, three forms of Hawaiian agriculture have been modeled (flooded, intensive rainfed, and colluvial systems; Ladefoged et al. 2009, Kurashima et al. 2019), but these assessments ignore a range of other agriculture forms (Lincoln andVitousek 2017, Lincoln et al. 2018), including arboriculture and agroforestry. Yet, we know these types of systems played a crucial, and oftentimes dominant, role in Polynesian agriculture (Yen 1974, Kirch 1989, Huebert and Allen 2016, Quintus et al. 2019, Huebert and Allen 2020. That kukui provided multiple outputs (oil, timber and firewood, animal husbandry, mulch, medicine, etc.) and, as a tree crop, required minimal labor inputs could explain large-scale conversion of the landscape to kukui and companion species. ...
Article
Kukui was an important element to indigenous Hawaiian agroforestry and retained some of its importance throughout Hawai‘i’s history. We examine the historical ecology and trends of kukui, including a review of the ethnobotany. We use current and historical remote imagery to map kukui canopy on the five largest Hawaiian Islands. Kukui is still widespread through the state, being a significant component in many novel low-land forests. However, kukui is declining, having lost an average of ∼58% of total canopy cover over the last 70 years. Spatial trends suggest that kukui likely did not spread much following the large-scale shifts in Hawaiian socio-ecosystems that accompanied the arrival of colonial powers. We suggest that the footprint of kukui in Hawai‘i closely approximates the extent of indigenous agroforestry and forest alteration. Keywords: agroecology, agroforestry, Aleurites, candlenut, ecology, Hawai‘i, kukui, moluccanus
... Thus, the loss of the palm forest seems to have had no substantial economic impact on the human population's ability to support itself. It is also worth noting that agroforestry practices were widespread throughout Polynesia (e.g., [119,120])-surely if palm trees were a critical resource, then Rapa Nui people could have managed these arboricultural resources. ...
... While human populations did cause profound changes to the island's environment, these human impacts were accompanied by land-use practices that ultimately improved the island's productivity and helped ensure the long-term sustainability of Rapa Nui communities. This pattern of anthropogenic ecological transformation of island environments into landscapes that sustainably supported human communities is widespread across the Pacific (e.g., [7,113,119,120,[182][183][184][185][186][187][188][189]). While the social and environmental configurations that comprise these transformations greatly vary by island location, due to historical contingencies and island-specific resource constraints (e.g., [132,158,190,191]), a common outcome is how these practices increased the natural productivity of these environments. ...
Article
Full-text available
The history of Rapa Nui (Easter Island) has long been framed as a parable for how societies can fail catastrophically due to the selfish actions of individuals and a failure to wisely manage common-pool resources. While originating in the interpretations made by 18th-century visitors to the island, 20th-century scholars recast this narrative as a "tragedy of the commons," assuming that past populations were unsustainable and selfishly overexploited the limited resources on the island. This narrative, however, is now at odds with a range of archaeological, ethnohistoric, and environmental evidence. Here, we argue that while Rapa Nui did experience large-scale deforestation and ecological changes, these must be contextualized given past land-use practices on the island. We provide a synthesis of this evidence, showing that Rapa Nui populations were sustainable and avoided a tragedy of the commons through a variety of community practices. We discuss this evidence in the context of Elinor Ostrom's "core design principles" for sustainable communities and argue that Rapa Nui provides a model for long-term sustainability.
... Non-native dominant forests now cover 2407 km 2 of the islands, representing 40 % of Hawaiʻi's total forest cover (Selmants et al., 2017). These forests have arisen from two primary pathways: 1) intentional planting and natural succession on lands previously cleared for plantation agriculture and forestry (Woodcock, 2003), and 2) invasion into formally native-dominated ecosystems and Indigenous agroecosystems, including areas managed with Indigenous agroforestry prior to colonization Lincoln et al., 2018;Quintus et al., 2019). Non-native forests can decrease erosion, hold water, and provide other ecosystem services (Ewel and Putz, 2004), yet they are often less desirable than native forests as they contain lower native biodiversity and threaten native forests through the dispersal of non-native species (Vorsino et al., 2014). ...
Article
Agricultural land abandonment affects millions of hectares of cultivated lands globally. While ending cultivation can lead to spontaneous reforestation and ecological benefits, the resulting landscapes often have lower social and agricultural benefits than the native forests and agricultural systems they replace, especially when non-native species dominate successional pathways. This is the case in many Pacific Islands including Hawaiʻi, where approximately 45 % of agricultural lands are unmanaged and non-native forests make up nearly 40 % of total forest cover. Agroforestry systems that integrate native and non-native culturally important plants present a potential pathway to increase social and ecological benefits of unmanaged agricultural lands; however, understanding what the restoration potential is of different agroforestry systems remains a question. We collaborated with a Native Hawaiian-led, community-based organization to explore this potential. We asked, 1) does the composition of agroforestry species planted (i.e., treatment) affect restoration success, and if so, do other factors mediate the effect of treatment, and 2) how do ecological conditions two years after starting restoration compare to conditions pre-restoration? We set up ten 12 × 15 m restoration plots and one reference plot on former pasture land regenerating as non-native forest. Then, we used a functional trait-based approach to select two agroforestry species mixes. Both mixes had high cultural value and each had traits to address a different primary ecological goal: erosion control and early successional facilitation. We monitored the plant communities before restoration and at six months, one year, and 1.5 years post-planting. We used multivariate analysis and structural equation modeling (SEM) to analyze the differences between treatments over time. We found that measures of restoration success did not vary significantly between treatments but did change from baseline. Results of the SEM indicated that understory weed cover was a significant driver of understory cover of agroforestry species, but that variability in agroforestry cover was primarily a result of management factors not tested in the model. This study provides a first step in documenting what non-native forest to agroforest transitions can look like. Our findings suggest that non-native fallows have a high potential for restoration through agroforestry in Pacific Island ecosystems.
... The breadfruit tree is a signature, multi-purpose-tree of the complex perennial agro-ecosystems systems in Oceania (Quintus et al. 2019) with several hundred documented cultivars (Ragone and Wiseman 2007). Breadfruit agriculture is found in various forms in Hawaiʻi, including as food forests (Lincoln 2020), as intensively managed diversified orchards (Lincoln and Ladefoged 2014), and as individual trees in home gardens (Meilleur et al 2004). ...
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Background The COVID-19 pandemic is interrupting domestic and global food supply chains resulting in reduced access to healthy diverse diets. Hawaiʻi has been described as a model social-ecological system and it has been suggested that indigenous agro-ecosystems have the potential to be highly productive and resilient under changing land-use and climate change disturbance. However, little research has yet been conducted exploring the disruption and resilience of agro-ecosystems in Hawaiʻi caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The breadfruit tree ( Artocarpus altilis ; Moraceae) is a signature, multi-purpose-tree of the complex perennial agro-ecosystems systems in Oceania. Methods This case study explores the ways in which the breadfruit agro-ecosystems of Hawaiʻi have shown resilience during the COVID-19 pandemic. Results Our study suggests that breadfruit has increased its value as a subsistence crop during the COVID-19 pandemic, even in a developed economy like Hawaiʻi, and that resilience of Hawaiian breadfruit agroe-cosystems during a crisis can be supported through cooperatives and food-hubs.
... Instead, it is a Western construct that is an umbrella term for a variety of place-based practices that integrate trees and other plants in various arrangements and intensities. For example, in Hawai'i forms of agroforestry may be called pākukui (Lincoln, 2020), kalu'ulu (Menzies, 1920;Kelly, 1983;Quintus et al., 2019), or ka malu 'ulu o lele. One practitioner explained how using the term agroforestry can therefore exclude the participation of Indigenous people who are familiar with integrated forest-agriculture practices, but not the term agroforestry. ...
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Agroforestry is often promoted as a multi-benefit solution to increasing the resilience of agricultural landscapes. Yet, there are many obstacles to transitioning agricultural production systems to agroforestry. Research on agroforestry transitions often focuses on why farmers and land managers chose to adopt this type of stewardship, with less focus on the political context of practitioner decisions. We use the case study of agroforestry in Hawai‘i to explore how agroforestry transitions occur with particular attention to politics and power dynamics. Specifically, we ask, what factors drive and/or restrain transitions to agroforestry and who is able to participate. We interviewed 38 agroforestry practitioners in Hawai‘i and analyzed the data using constructivist grounded theory. We then held a focus group discussion with interview participants to share results and discuss solutions. Practitioners primarily chose agroforestry intentionally for non-economic and values-based reasons, rather than as a means to production or economic goals. Agroforestry practitioners face a similar suite of structural obstacles as other agricultural producers, including access to land, labor, and capital and ecological obstacles like invasive species and climate change. However, the conflict in values between practitioners and dominant institutions manifests as four additional dimensions of obstacles constraining agroforestry transitions: systems for accessing land, capital, and markets favor short-term production and economic value; Indigenous and local knowledge is not adequately valued; regulatory, funding, and other support institutions are siloed; and not enough appropriate information is accessible. Who is able to practice despite these obstacles is tightly linked with people's ability to access off-site resources that are inequitably distributed. Our case study highlights three key points with important implications for realizing just agroforestry transitions: (1) practitioners transition to agroforestry to restore ecosystems and reclaim sovereignty, not just for the direct benefits; (2) a major constraint to agroforestry transitions is that the term agroforestry is both unifying and exclusionary; (3) structural change is needed for agroforestry transitions to be just. We discuss potential solutions in the context of Hawai‘i and provide transferrable principles and actionable strategies for achieving equity in agroforestry transitions. We also demonstrate a transferrable approach for action-oriented, interdisciplinary research in support of just agroforestry transitions.
... This multistory arboricultural system mimicks the structure of the natural forests it replaces, but substitutes forest plants with similar species that provide food and other biocultural resources. Quintus et al. [35] have pointed to the importance of arboriculture or agro-forestry in traditional Polynesian subsistence systems (and see [36,37]). ...
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Tikopia Island, a small and relatively isolated Polynesian Outlier in the Southeast Solomon Islands, supports a remarkably dense human population with minimal external support. Examining long-term trends in human land use on Tikopia through archaeological datasets spanning nearly 3000 years presents an opportunity to investigate pathways to long-term sustainability in a tropical island setting. Here, we trace nutrient dynamics across Tikopia’s three pre-European contact phases (Kiki, Sinapupu, Tuakamali) via stable carbon and nitrogen isotope analysis of commensal Pacific rat (Rattus exulans) and domestic pig (Sus scrofa) bone and tooth dentine collagen. Our results show a decline in δ15N values from the Kiki (c. 800 BC-AD 100) to Sinapupu (c. AD 100–1200) phases, consistent with long-term commensal isotope trends observed on other Polynesian islands. However, increased δ15N coupled with lower δ13C values in the Tuakamali Phase (c. AD 1200–1800) point to a later nutrient rejuvenation, likely tied to dramatic transformations in agriculture and land use at the Sinapupu-Tuakamali transition. This study offers new, quantifiable evidence for deep-time land and resource management decisions on Tikopia and subsequent impacts on island nutrient status and long-term sustainability.
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The availability of nutrient‐rich soils capable of supporting intensive cultivation was a key factor in the relative vulnerability and resilience of traditional Polynesian societies, whose economies were based on agricultural production. We tested the hypothesis that geological age was a key controlling factor in determining the nutrient status of island soils, extensively sampling soils on two islands and a small archipelago in southeastern Polynesia: Mo‘orea (1.5–1.72 Ma), Maupiti (3.9–4.5 Ma), and the Gambier Islands (5.6–6.3 Ma). Rather than supporting a hypothesis of island age primarily determining soil fertility, our results indicate that topographic relief, the presence of active slope processes such as landslides and mass wasting, and rainfall are more important controlling factors. Rejuvenation of soil nutrients due to mass wasting, in particular, appears to be the most important factor contributing to soil fertility. Our field surveys also provide archaeological evidence showing that precontact Polynesians were finely attuned to local soil properties, targeting high soil fertility areas for agriculture and reserving lower fertility areas for other land use practices.
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In this paper, I examine the potential of studying living things archaeologically. I adopt and expand the term ‘vivifact’ first proposed by Kawa, Painter, and Murray [2015. “Trail Trees: Living Artifacts (Vivifacts) of Eastern North America.” Ethnobiology Letters 6 (1): 183–188. doi:10.14237/ebl.6.1.2015.410], defined in this paper as any living plant or animal the appearance, features, or distribution of which can be understood as the product of past human action. The ethical considerations required by living artefacts are discussed. Different types of living things that can be grouped under the vivifact concept are then reviewed, including culturally modified trees, patterns of vegetation growth and living populations having traits selected for by past human activity. Practical approaches are described by which archaeologists can approach these resources. Two case studies are presented from Virginia, one describing vegetation survey in a wooded landscape and one examining modern sheep populations to better understand eighteenth-century sheep. However, the techniques described could be applied anywhere in the world. I propose that vivifacts are best understood through the lens of the systems that create and maintain them. The common ground uniting all living things is that they are produced and maintained by systems, and it is the examination of these systems that can serve to create a unified archaeology of living things.
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The Mumun period (ca. 1500–1 BC) on the Korean Peninsula represents an incipient agricultural society with a reliance on cereals and legumes. Relatively little is known about the utilization of other types of plants that are considered to be delicacies and condiments. We present archaeobotanical evidence of the storage of perilla seeds dated to ca. 1000 BC. Charring experiments of modern perilla seeds were conducted to examine seed-size changes under different heating temperatures and durations. The experimental results confirmed that the recovered specimens belonged to the cultivated type of Perilla frutescens var. frutescens. The occasional discovery of perilla seeds from earlier settlements suggests that perilla utilization has a deeper history that dates back to ca. 3500 BC. These findings demonstrate that the small-scale production of fragrant vegetables and oilseeds was important alongside the cultivation of carbohydrate-rich crops in prehistoric Korea.
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Calls for, and commitments to, forest restoration and regenerative agriculture are booming. While these practices are often conceptualized and implemented separately, in many contexts, research and practice at the intersection of forest restoration and diversified agriculture can accelerate the mutual goal of increasing biodiversity and ecosystem services on degraded lands. However, research on integrated forest‐agriculture practices, or agroforestry, often leaves out locally important native species and produces findings that are species‐specific, which together constrain research‐practice connections. We discuss a research design process that integrates two well‐established methods and allows for local customization in species selection, while also enabling study findings to be generalized to other sites. We illustrate this process through a case study from Hawai‘i and discuss the benefits, challenges, and potential further applications.
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The book is particularly aimed at students of Samoan culture, botanists and lay people who want to know the names and uses of plants in Samoa. Samoans have a rich heritage of using native and other traditional plants found in the islands to fulfill their everyday needs. The archipelago is home to nearly 800 native vascular plants, and the ancient Samoans also brought another 50 or so plant species with them for use as food, shelter, clothing, and other necessities of life. In recent times, however, much of the traditional plant lore has been lost as Samoa has undergone profound changes related to the introduction of western ways and material goods. A whole generation has grown up without much of this traditional knowledge that their parents and grandparents had, and the information is slowly being lost. Plants in Samoan Culture: the Ethnobotany of Samoa is about this traditional plant lore, and is based upon the botanical literature of the last 150 years and the author's 30 years of work in Samoa. The book, which is richly illustrated with about 150 black and white photos, includes all the current and traditional use of plants in Samoan culture. The book is divided into chapters on food (staples and minor plants), plaiting of weaving materials, cordage, tapa cloth, wood products (for houses, boats, and artifacts), medicine, ornamentation, and other uses. It also features a listing of all Samoan plant names, with their scientific names, habitat, status, and uses. Also included is an appendix with other plant names that have not been substantiated.
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Before European contact, Native Hawaiian agriculture was highly adapted to place and expressed a myriad of forms. Although the iconic lo‘i systems (flooded irrigated terraces) are often portrayed as traditional Hawaiian agriculture, other forms of agriculture were, in sum, arguably more important. While pockets of traditional agricultural practices have persevered over the 240 years since European arrival, the revival of indigenous methods and crops has substantially increased since the 1970s. While engagement in lo‘i restoration and maintenance has been a core vehicle for communication and education regarding Hawaiian culture, it does not represent the full spectrum of Hawaiian agriculture and, on the younger islands of Hawai‘i and Maui in particular, does not accurately represent participants’ ancestral engagement with ‘āina malo‘o (dry land, as opposed to flooded lands). These “dryland” forms of agriculture produced more food than lo‘i, especially on the younger islands, were used to produce a broader range of resource crops such as for fiber, timber, and medicine, were more widespread across the islands, and formed the economic base for the powerful Hawai‘i Island chiefs who eventually conquered the archipelago. The recent engagement in the restoration of these forms of agriculture on Hawai‘i Island, compared to the more longstanding efforts to revive lo‘i-based cultivation, is challenging due to highly eroded knowledge systems. However, their restoration highlights the high level of place-based adaptation, demonstrates the scale and political landscape of pre-European Hawai‘i, and provides essential elements in supporting the restoration of Hawaiian culture.
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In the Marquesas Islands, topographically rugged and prone to droughts, the subsistence economy at Western contact was strongly focused on arboriculture. Drawing on niche construction theory, we detail the socio-natural processes that gave rise to this cultivation system using the largest Polynesian archaeobotanical study to date. Inceptive, counter-active, and proactive niche construction was evidenced over six centuries of human occupation. Two 13th century tree translocations were identified: candlenut (Aleurites moluccana) and breadfruit (Artocarpus altilis). Establishment of these and other crops was accompanied by extensive forest clearance and repetitive burning-indicative of shifting cultivation. These activities brought consequential changes to native coastal and lowland vegetation, and extinctions of indigenous forest and bird species. Fifteenth-century counter-active niche construction involved the rapid dispersal and increasing uptake of tree cultivation (especially breadfruit) within and across valleys, and diversification of the tree crop inventory. The advantages of breadfruit cultivation-nutritional, economic, ecological, and geomorphic-were considerable and from the mid-17th century arboriculture came to dominate the Marquesan economy, perhaps accelerated by unpredictable climatic conditions. Six centuries of niche construction created an array of novel selective conditions, invoking evolutionary responses in Marquesan people, flora, and fauna, and fostering a unique ecological inheritance for future generations.