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Archaeologists Involved in Ambitious Study on Past Land Use

To increase the accuracy of climate models, it is crucial that they include past human land-use and human-driven vegetation changes. Here archaeology can make an important contribution. Current models are based on reconstructions of past vegetation. However, their accuracy is limited because it does not take human influence on vegetation into account. Archaeology shows that people engineered their environments in far-reaching ways for at least the last 10,000 years. The LandCover6k project provides a new classification system that the researchers hope will boost future models and fill in gaps about the past.

Leiden University

One of our own researchers, Dr. Gerrit Dusseldorp is part of this six-year project involving more than 200 archaeologists, historians, geographers, paleoecologists, and climate modellers from around the world.

''It was very stimulating to talk to archaeologists working in very different regions and using very different techniques as well as people from a host of other specialities to try and make all our data comparable and integrate it into a global model. It made me see how important it is to take a step back from my own research tradition to show what our data means to the big picture, both of the past, but also the present.'', he says. 


The aim of the project is to compile geological and historical documentation of land-use structures from four time periods—12,000 Years ago (BP), 6,000 BP, 4,000 BP, and about the year 1500 CE—into a single database. The project seeks to combine what archaeologists, historians, geographers, paleoecologists, and climate modellers have learned about (human) land use through time and space into a single, searchable database for climate modellers and others.


Dr. Gerrit Dusseldorp, as part of this international team, recently published a new PLOS ONE paper. The research results from a wide array of archaeological data to create a worldwide system for past land use. LandCover6k's land-use classification system and global database are described in the paper in detail. Consequently, this data can be used for climate models of the IPCC.

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