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E&S Home > Vol. 26, Iss. 2 > Art. 6 > Abstract Open Access Publishing 
Historical Indigenous Land-Use Explains Plant Functional Trait Diversity

Chelsey Geralda Armstrong, Indigenous Studies, Simon Fraser University
Jesse E. D. Miller, Department of Biology, Stanford University, 371 Stanford Mall, Stanford, California 94305
Alex C McAlvay, Institute of Economic Botany, New York Botanical Garden
Patrick Morgan Ritchie, Department of Anthropology, University of British Columbia
Dana Lepofsky, Department of Archaeology, Simon Fraser University


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Human land-use legacies have long-term effects on plant community composition and ecosystem function. While ancient and historical land use is known to affect biodiversity patterns, it is unknown whether such legacies affect other plant community properties such as the diversity of functional traits. Functional traits are a critical tool for understanding ecological communities because they give insights into community assembly processes as well as potential species interactions and other ecosystem functions. Here, we present the first systematic study evaluating how plant functional trait distributions and functional diversity are affected by ancient and historical Indigenous forest management in the Pacific Northwest. We compare forest garden ecosystems - managed perennial fruit and nut communities associated exclusively with archaeological village sites - with surrounding periphery conifer forests. We find that forest gardens have substantially greater plant and functional trait diversity than periphery forests even more than 150 years after management ceased. Forests managed by Indigenous peoples in the past now provide diverse resources and habitat for animals and other pollinators and are more rich than naturally forested ecosystems. Although ecological studies rarely incorporate Indigenous land-use legacies, the positive effects of Indigenous land use on contemporary functional and taxonomic diversity that we observe provide some of the strongest evidence yet that Indigenous management practices are tied to ecosystem health and resilience.

Key words

Forest Gardens, Functional Diversity, Land-Use Legacies, Pacific Northwest, Plant Functional Traits

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.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087