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Soils, landscapes, and cultural concepts of favor and disfavor within complex adaptive systems and ResourceCultures: human-land interactions during the Holocene

Bruce R. James, Department of Environmental Science and Technology, University of Maryland, College Park, MD USA
Sandra Teuber, Department of Geosciences, Faculty of Science, University of Tübingen, Tübingen, Germany; SFB 1070 ResourceCultures, University of Tübingen, Tübingen, Germany
Jan J. Miera, Institute for Pre- and Early History, University of Leipzig, Leipzig, Germany; Institute for Pre- and Early History, Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena, Jena, Germany
Sean Downey, The Sustainability Institute at Ohio State University, Columbus, OH USA; Department of Anthropology, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH USA
Jessica Henkner, Department of Geosciences, Faculty of Science, University of Tübingen, Tübingen, Germany
Thomas Knopf, Institute of Pre- and Protohistory and Medieval Archaeology, University of Tübingen, Tübingen, Germany
Fabio A. Correa, Department of Anthropology, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH USA
Benjamin Höpfer, Institute of Pre- and Protohistory and Medieval Archaeology, University of Tübingen, Tübingen, Germany
Sascha Scherer, Department of Geosciences, Faculty of Science, University of Tübingen, Tübingen, Germany
Adriane Michaelis, Department of Anthropology, University of Maryland, College Park, MD USA
Barret M. Wessel, Department of Environmental Science and Technology, University of Maryland, College Park, MD USA
Kevin S. Gibbons, Department of Anthropology, University of Maryland, College Park, MD USA
Peter Kühn, Department of Geosciences, Faculty of Science, University of Tübingen, Tübingen, Germany
Thomas Scholten, Department of Geosciences, Faculty of Science, University of Tübingen, Tübingen, Germany

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5751/ES-12155-260106

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Abstract

We review and contrast three frameworks for analyzing human-land interactions in the Holocene: the traditional concept of favored and disfavored landscapes, the new concept of ResourceCultures from researchers at University of Tübingen, and complex adaptive systems, which is a well-established contemporary approach in interdisciplinary research. Following a theoretical integration of fundamental concepts, we analyze three paired case studies involving modern agriculture in Germany and Belize, prehistorical changes in land use in southwest Germany, and aquaculture on the Pacific and Atlantic coasts of North America. We conclude that ResourceCultures and complex adaptive systems provide different but complementary strengths, but that both move beyond the favor-disfavor concept for providing a holistic, system-level approach to understanding human-land interactions. The three frameworks for understanding human responses to contemporary cultural and biophysical challenges are relevant to new thinking related to sustainability, resilience, and long-term environmental planning in the Anthropocene.

Key words

Black Forest agriculture; Bronze Age land use in Germany; Chesapeake Bay oyster culture; complex adaptive systems; German allotment gardens; human-environment interactions; Pacific Northwest clam gardens; Q'eqchi' Maya swidden agriculture in Belize; ResourceCultures

Copyright © 2021 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087