A Congo Basin ethnographic analogue of pre-Columbian Amazonian raised fields shows the ephemeral legacy of organic matter management

Rodrigues, Leonor; Sprafke, Tobias; Bokatola Moyikola, Carine; Barthès, Bernard G.; Bertrand, Isabelle; Comptour, Marion; Rostain, Stéphen; Yoka, Joseph; McKey, Doyle (2020). A Congo Basin ethnographic analogue of pre-Columbian Amazonian raised fields shows the ephemeral legacy of organic matter management. Scientific reports, 10(1) Springer Nature 10.1038/s41598-020-67467-8

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The functioning and productivity of pre-Columbian raised fields (RFs) and their role in the development of complex societies in Amazonian savannas remain debated. RF agriculture is conducted today in the Congo Basin, offering an instructive analogue to pre-Columbian RFs in Amazonia. Our study of construction of present-day RFs documents periodic addition of organic matter (OM) during repeated field/fallow cycles. Field investigations of RF profiles supported by spectrophotometry reveal a characteristic stratigraphy. Soil geochemistry indicates that the management of Congo RFs improves soil fertility for a limited time when they are under cultivation, but nutrient availability in fallow RFs differs little from that in uncultivated reference topsoils. Furthermore, examination of soil micromorphology shows that within less than 40 years, bioturbation almost completely removes stratigraphic evidence of repeated OM amendments. If Amazonian RFs were similarly managed, their vestiges would thus be unlikely to show traces of such management centuries after abandonment. These results call into question the hypothesis that the sole purpose of constructing RFs in pre-Columbian Amazonia was drainage.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)

Division/Institute:

08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography
08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography > Physical Geography > Unit Paleo-Geoecology
08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography > Physical Geography

UniBE Contributor:

Gondim Rodrigues, Leonor Maria and Sprafke, Tobias

Subjects:

900 History > 910 Geography & travel
500 Science > 550 Earth sciences & geology
500 Science > 560 Fossils & prehistoric life
900 History > 930 History of ancient world (to ca. 499)
900 History > 960 History of Africa
900 History > 980 History of South America

ISSN:

2045-2322

Publisher:

Springer Nature

Language:

English

Submitter:

Lukas Munz

Date Deposited:

06 Jul 2020 10:58

Last Modified:

13 Mar 2021 13:44

Publisher DOI:

10.1038/s41598-020-67467-8

BORIS DOI:

10.7892/boris.144992

URI:

https://boris.unibe.ch/id/eprint/144992

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