Differentiation of neotropical ecosystems by modern soil phytolith assemblages and its implications for palaeoenvironmental and archaeological reconstructions II: Southwestern Amazonian forests

Jennifer Watling, José Iriarte, Bronwen Whitney, E. Consuelo, Francis Mayle, Wendeson Castro, Denise P. Schaan, Ted Feldpausch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)
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Abstract

Accurate archaeological and palaeoenvironmental reconstructions using phytoliths relies on the study of modern reference material. In eastern Acre, Brazil, we examined whether the five most common forest types present today were able to be differentiated by their soil phytolith assemblages, and thus provide analogues with which to compare palaeoecological assemblages from pre-Columbian earthwork sites in the region. Surface soils and vegetation from dense humid evergreen forest, dense humid evergreen forest with high palm abundance, palm forest, bamboo forest and fluvial forest were sampled and their phytoliths analysed. Relative phytolith frequencies were statistically compared using Principal Components Analyses (PCAs). We found the major differences in species composition to be well-represented by the phytolith assemblages as all forest types, apart from the two sub-types of dense humid evergreen forest, could be differentiated. Larger phytoliths from the sand fraction were found to be more ecologically diagnostic than those from the silt fraction. The surface soil phytolith assemblages we analysed can therefore be used as analogues to improve the accuracy of archaeological and palaeoecological reconstructions in the region.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)30-43
JournalReview of Palaeobotany and Palynology
Volume226
Early online date21 Dec 2015
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2016

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