Multiple-factor classification of a human-modified forest landscape in the Hsuehshan Mountain Range, Taiwan

Date and Time: 
Thursday, 17 March, 2016 - 14:45
, Kevan - Integral Ecology Group

Human actions drive landscape heterogeneity, yet most ecosystem classifications omit the role of human influence. This study explores landscape history to inform a classification of the local forestland of the Tayal Mrqwang indigenous people of Taiwan. Our objectives were to determine the extent to which human action accounts for patterns of forest heterogeneity. We used multivariate tools to relate vegetation to environmental gradients and human modification across 76 sites. We identified eleven forest types, ranging from mixed coniferous forests at high elevations, to pine, bamboo, alder, and laurel stands at low elevations. The impact of human action was particularly evident at lower elevations, where patterns of forest and soil variation were resonant of the small-scale practices of indigenous residents (e.g., shifting cultivation). The findings show that forest-dwelling people play a key role in shaping the forest, which counters widely held perceptions that mountain forests are predominantly natural in Taiwan.