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Anthropology, Space, and Geographic Information Systems$
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Mark Aldenderfer and Herbert D. G. Maschner

Print publication date: 1996

Print ISBN-13: 9780195085754

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780195085754.001.0001

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A Formal Justification for the Application of GIS to the Cultural Ecological Analysis of Land-Use Intensification and Deforestation in the Amazon

A Formal Justification for the Application of GIS to the Cultural Ecological Analysis of Land-Use Intensification and Deforestation in the Amazon

Chapter:
4 A Formal Justification for the Application of GIS to the Cultural Ecological Analysis of Land-Use Intensification and Deforestation in the Amazon
Source:
Anthropology, Space, and Geographic Information Systems
Author(s):

Clifford A. Behrens

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/oso/9780195085754.003.0007

What is the process by which indigenous Amazonian people intensify their utilization of tropical forest resources, and what are the roles of population demography, settlement patterns, and resource degradation in this process? These are the central problems of this chapter. Over the last fifty years, ecologically oriented anthropologists have focused on these questions because of their significance for explaining the socioecological variability found among Amazonian Indians. A common theme in many attempts to account for socioecological variability in the Amazon is that large, sedentary populations necessitate increasing levels of social integration. Therefore, some explanations for this variability have sought factors that limit population density, such as the local availability of arable soils and protein-rich faunal foods. Simple single-factor frameworks have been criticized, yielding slightly more complex kinds of explanation, some based on evolutionary ecology and decision theory. Nevertheless, none of these approaches has successfully managed to relate population growth, village formation, resource degradation, and intensification of land use together in a single formalism that derives its first principles from a comparative analysis of the ethnographic literature. As a result, culture has not been assigned the central role it deserves in any theory purporting to characterize the process of land use intensification among indigenous Amazonians. This paper will review the ethnographic literature on the Amazon to (1) establish an empirical basis for the ingredients required to formulate cultural ecological theories of land-use intensification among indigenous Amazonians and (2) propose a developmental sequence based on increasing sedentism, intensification of land utilization, and growing market demand for production. Thus, this paper attempts to integrate seemingly disparate ideas from the past and present, each with some “ring of truth,” in the kind of mathematical framework advocated but never really achieved by Steward. The resulting paradigm converges on one very much resembling “land scape ecology,” but with greater emphasis on the role of culture and human decision making in a generative process. The need for detailed land-use data on a regional scale implicates the application of new technologies, such as remote sensing and geographical information systems, to test the proposed theories.

Keywords:   Central place model, Earth Resources Laboratory Application Software (ELAS), Ecological degradation, Geographical Resource Analysis and Support System (GRASS), Intensification, land use, Lagrangean equation, Thematic mapper (TM), Time allocation model, Van Thunen model

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