Multidisciplinary approach to investigate human-forest relationships in southern French Alps: How to estimate the impact of populations on the local mountain wood stock? - Aix-Marseille Université Access content directly
Journal Articles Quaternary International Year : 2023

Multidisciplinary approach to investigate human-forest relationships in southern French Alps: How to estimate the impact of populations on the local mountain wood stock?

Abstract

This study presents a multidisciplinary approach between palaeoecology and the analysis of historical archives to reconstruct forest history subjected to long-term human activities. We focus on a case study from the southern French Alps (the Bl´eone Valley), for which a rich historical corpus but little palaeoenvironmental data are available. We compared and contrasted (i) pedoanthracological data obtained along an altitudinal transect (ca 400 m), (ii) dendrochronological data from historical buildings and old living trees, and (iii) historical data from written sources on forest management and land-use change. The aim of this paper is to demonstrate that the comparison between different proxy data to understand the history of mountain forest ecosystems and humanforest interactions is very challenging. We show that the spatial distribution of forest and treeline position have been impacted by human activities, mainly due to agro-sylvo-pastoral practices through the use of fire and forest cutting to maintain open pasture lands and local building purposes. Despite centuries of local agro-sylvo-pastoral activities, the forest composition has remained relatively unchanged since the Middle Ages. Our comparison of historical documents with dendrochronological data on local buildings and soil charcoal data shows that the local demands of wood cannot explain the observed large-scale changes in forest spatial continuity. Curiously, the highest demand for wood by local residents did not occur in pace with modern demographic boom (17th century), as would be expected. Thus, we suggest that supra-regional external regulations and State’s control played a more important role in forest management. Royal shipbuilding industry, more lucrative economic stakes, and expanded demand for timber for construction of buildings in urban areas of the lower valleys and plains are among the external factors which impacted forest exploitation during periods when logging was prohibited
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Dates and versions

hal-04176496 , version 1 (03-08-2023)

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Emma Gamba, Lisa Shindo, Delphine Isoardi, Brigitte Talon. Multidisciplinary approach to investigate human-forest relationships in southern French Alps: How to estimate the impact of populations on the local mountain wood stock?. Quaternary International, 2023, ⟨10.1016/j.quaint.2023.07.011⟩. ⟨hal-04176496⟩
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