Ancient Mayans practiced forest conservation 3,000 years ago

July 25th, 2009 - 2:23 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, July 25 (ANI): In a new study, scientists from the University of Cincinnati (UC) have determined that the ancient Mayans practiced forest conservation about 3,000 years ago.

Paleoethnobotanist David Lentz from the University of Cincinnati has concluded that not only did the Maya people practice forest management, but when they abandoned their forest conservation practices, it was to the detriment of the entire Maya culture.

“From our research we have learned that the Maya were deliberately conserving forest resources,” said David Lentz, a professor of biological sciences at the UC and executive director of the Cincinnati Center for Field Studies.

“Their deliberate conservation practices can be observed in the wood they used for construction and this observation is reinforced by the pollen record,” he added.

The UC team learnt that the Maya, at least initially, were practicing good forestry management.

“They were not allowed to cut down what we’re calling the ’sacred groves’,” said Lentz.

“Then that changed during the Late Classic period with Jasaw Chan K’awiil - one of the greatest figures of prehistory. The Tikal Maya had been beaten up and had fallen to second-rate status prior to his ascendancy. Jasaw Chan K’awiil led an army to the heartland of a competing city, Calakmul, captured their ruler, bound him, brought him back and sacrificed him - and it totally reversed their fortunes in a very dramatic way,” he added.

After that, the Maya rebuilt the city of Tikal in a way never seen before.

They begin building huge temples that required considerable resources, especially large, straight trees whose wood could withstand the weight of tons of stone.

As a result, the Mayans started to cut down a lot of trees.

“When you clear all the forests, it changes the hydrologic cycle. The world is like a flat surface with all the trees acting as sponges on it. The trees absorb the water. Without the trees, there is no buffer to stop the water from runoff. That causes soil erosion, which then chokes the rivers and streams,” said Lentz.

“With no trees, you lose water retention in the soil or aquifers so the ground dries up and then there is less transpiration, so therefore less rainfall as well,” he added.

In addition to using the trees as timber, the Maya also burned the trees, adding carbon to the air in the form of carbon dioxide (CO2), which may have proved detriment to their civilization. (ANI)

Related Stories

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Posted in Health Science |