UVM geologists explore link between human action and landscape change

February 24, 2005

Since they began clearing valleys and slopes for agriculture more than 9,000 years ago, and continuing with the construction of roads, buildings and cities, people have been altering landscapes. UVM geologists explore the link between human actions and landscape--and reach some important conclusions--in the cover article of the March issue of GSA Today. Produced by the Geological Society of America, the prestigious monthly journal goes to more than 20,000 geologists and libraries worldwide.

Paul Bierman, professor of geology, and colleagues--including three undergraduates--authored the paper, titled "Old Landscape Images Record Landscape Change Through Time." The paper is the result of research collected via UVM's Landscape Change Program, a searchable, web-based community archive of more than 10,000 images of Vermont landscapes from before 1810 to the present. The archive, which is particularly rich in rare images of rural areas, can be accessed online at http://uvm.edu/perkins/landscape.

Historical photographs are a powerful tool for examining and understanding the distribution of physical and biological surficial processes over the course of decades and centuries. Such imagery is particularly valuable for understanding human-landscape interaction. The GSA article presents several examples of quantitative, image-based, landscape-scale analyses made using hundreds of different images, each taken at a different place.

"Our findings have significant environmental implications for Vermont and New England in general," said Bierman. "We found that erosion is linked to clearing trees from hill slopes, which implies that if New England were cleared of trees sediment would again pour off slopes and into streams and rivers." Also of note, said Bierman, are the condition of riparian zones; corridors running along rivers and streams have improved markedly over the past 30 years. "This is a positive environmental finding and one that's very good for stream health and the health of ecosystems in streams," he said.
-end-
Co-authors and seniors Jehanna Howe, Elizabeth Stanley Mann and Michala Peabody worked all summer and into the fall on the project, presenting posters at the GSA national meeting in Denver that drew such great interest they became the catalyst for the GSA paper. The students were funded by a National Science Foundation grant for undergraduate research that Bierman and adjunct instructor Christine Massey applied for several years ago. "The students are at the core of this work," Bierman attests. The Landscape Change Program itself has been supported by the National Science Foundation and the Lintilac Foundation.

For more information, contact Bierman at paul.bierman@uvm.edu or call (802)656-4411.

University of Vermont

Related Agriculture Articles from Brightsurf:

Post-pandemic brave new world of agriculture
Recent events have shown how vulnerable the meat processing industry is to COVID-19.

Agriculture - a climate villain? Maybe not!
The UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) claims that agriculture is one of the main sources of greenhouse gases, and is thus by many observers considered as a climate villain.

Digital agriculture paves the road to agricultural sustainability
In a study published in Nature Sustainability, researchers outline how to develop a more sustainable land management system through data collection and stakeholder buy-in.

Comparisons of organic and conventional agriculture need to be better, say researchers
The environmental effects of agriculture and food are hotly debated.

EU agriculture not viable for the future
The current reform proposals of the EU Commission on the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) are unlikely to improve environmental protection, say researchers led by the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) and the University of Göttingen in the journal Science.

Global agriculture: Impending threats to biodiversity
A new study compares the effects of expansion vs. intensification of cropland use on global agricultural markets and biodiversity, and finds that the expansion strategy poses a particularly serious threat to biodiversity in the tropics.

A new vision for genomics in animal agriculture
Iowa State University animal scientists helped to form a blueprint to guide the next decade of animal genomics research.

New pathways for sustainable agriculture
Diversity beats monotony: a colourful patchwork of small, differently used plots can bring advantages to agriculture and nature.

The future of agriculture is computerized
Researchers at the MIT Media Lab Open Agriculture Initiative have used computer algorithms to determine the optimal growing conditions to improve basil plants' taste by maximizing the concentration of flavorful molecules known as volatile compounds.

When yesterday's agriculture feeds today's water pollution
Water quality is threatened by a long history of fertilizer use on land, Canadian scientists find.

Read More: Agriculture News and Agriculture Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.