Historical Ecology of Woods and Forests
Ecology is the study of plants and animals in relation to their environment and to each other. Historical ecology adds a time dimension, especially in relation to human activities, though it extends back into prehistory and into pre-human ages. I shall deal with the various methods of studying the history of vegetation and landscape: written records, photographs, pictures; archaeological evidence; the evidence of present vegetation, including ancient trees and trees that people have altered; off-site archaeology, including the timbers of historic buildings; and the study of pollen preserved in lakes and peat deposits. All the available methods need to be combined to put together a coherent story. I shall end with the importance of historical methods in dealing with the recent past and the future: is conservation applied historical ecology?
Oliver Rackham is a botanist by training and has spent his professional life in Cambridge, becoming Honorary Professor of Historical Ecology and Master of Corpus Christi College. He has studies in the Mediterranean (especially Crete), North America, Australia, and Japan. His most recent book is Woodlands, the hundredth volume in the Collins New Naturalist series. He was awarded the Order of the British Empire for ‘services to nature conservation’ and is a Fellow of the British Academy and of the Society of Antiquaries, London.