GeoHistory: Climate vs Humans – Wars Against Nature


“În Anglia, la mijlocul secolului al XIV-lea, construirea castelului din Windsor a necesitat tăierea unei întregi păduri: au fost masacraţi exact 3004 stejari. Cotidianul londonez The Times din 21 augst 1971, într-un articol privind poluarea şi moartea pădurii din Sherwood, constată că „nu mai există decât 300-400 de stejari în pădurea lui Robin Hood.” “Explozia demografică a provocat distrugeri şi ravagii în mediul înconjurător al Europei medievale. Ne putem face o idee despre întinderea pagubelor cauzate pădurilor de către industria metalurgică dacă notăm faptul că pentru a obţine 50 kg de fier trebuiau prelucrate 200 kg minereu arzând cel puţin 25m3 de lemn.”

Mare parte din bazinul panonic (fosta mare panonica) era în trecut o zonă mlăştinoasă dar în uma drenării, desecării şi regularizării cursurilor râurilor din secolul al 19-lea peisajul s-a schimbat total. Exemplu zona Lazuri din jud.Satu-Mare. Asemenea altora din întins a Câmpiea Tisei, capacitatea foarte reduse a reliefului și în general condiţiilor geomorfologice susţin doar o scurgere superficială, favorizând stagnările de apă și procesele de înmlăștinare. Cu siguranţă suprafeţele mlăștinoase erau mult mai întinse în trecut, iar terenurile joase au fost supuse în mod regulat inundaţiilor, cu precădere primăvara. De aceea grindurile nisipoase, popinele și în general locurile mai înalte, majoritatea dintre ele ușor de recunoscut astăzi, au reprezentat în toate epocile istorice formele de teren cele mai potrivite locuirii și exploatării solului. Cu siguranţă că înaintea lucrărilorc de hidro amelioraţii, cu puncte de greutate în secolele XVIII–XX, reţeaua terenurilor cultivabile era mult mai restrânsă, dar am putea presupune că măcar în anumite locații calitatea pământului era mai bună în raportc cu situaţia din ultimele două-trei secole, durată pe care influenţele antropice din ce în ce mai intense au avut drept urmare și degradarea solului. Despăduririle, desţelenirile și desecările intensificate în secolul al XIX-lea au provocat dispariţia aproape totală a vegetaţiei specifice unei vechi silvostepe, la nord de Crasna cu amprentă forestieră, fiind înlocuită aproape în totalitate prin terenuri agricole. În aceeași măsură au fost restrânse suprafeţele cu vegetaţie hidrofilă (spre exemplu stuful, papura, pipirigul), dar și arealul pășunilor naturale, acestea decisive în vechime pentru creșterea animalelor. Din fostele păduri, cu asociaţia specifică de vegetaţie (stejar pedunculat, uneori asociat cu carpenul sau ulmul) au rămas doar pâlcuri, rareori suprafeţe ceva mai întinse.

11 milioane ani î.Hr.: bazinele Panonic și Dacic

LACUL PANONIC CUATERNAR: MAREA ALBĂ A MITOLOGIEI ROMÂNEȘTI – In this paper we intend to support the idea that the White Sea of the Romanian mythical stories, the usual „sea” frequently mentioned in these narrations, existed as a geographical reality of the Pannonian Basin, so of the actual Middle Danube Depression, until about 11.560 years ago, so until the end of the Pleistocene (i.e. until the end of the Palaeolithic). This „sea” corresponds to the Relict Pannonian Lake. The Romanian mythical stories describe a fresh water sea with freshwater fish, with major bays (coade), that housed several important islands (ostroave) and freezing during heavy winters. Other important features of this unusual sea are also reflected by some usual syntagmes of the mythical stories such as „puddles of the sea”, „swamps of the seas” and „swirl of the sea”.

Marea Albă a basmelor româneşti. În două basme româneşti o întindere insolită de ape, Marea Albă, este numită ca atare şi aceasta poate reprezenta un reper planar excepţional pentru timpurile de demult. În alte multe basme se face referire la această mare, în care noi recunoaştem Lacul Panonic relict, fără însă
ca numele său să fie implicat. În mod obişnuit aceasta este „marea” din basmele noastre, iar când este vorba de o altă mare aceasta este numită în mod expres (Marea Verde, Marea Galbenă, Marea Neagră sau „mările albastre de la miazăzi”). ..

Contour of Lake Pannon at about 9.5 and 5 million years ago (after Magyar et al. 1992 and Magyar, pers. comm., 2006). The main directions of infilling river systems are indicated by the arrows. 
Paleogeography, paleoecology and paleoenvironments of Lake Pannon
Pannonian basin before the rivers and lakes were regulated in the 19th century. Light blue: water-covered for some amount of time during floods, Darker blue: water-covered permanently or for most of the year, Darkest blue: current lakes
The Pannonian Plain: periodically and permanently flooded areas prior to the flood control and drainage in 1830

Hartă ungurească a regatului maghiar cu banatele și voievodatele vasale în sec. XII.
“După cum se vede în harta de mai jos, harta maghiară contemporană a zonei Ungariei și a regiunilor învecinate, așa cum au fost ele consemnate în documentele ungurești din secolul XII, existau mai multe formațiuni statale românești, marcate cu roșu: principatele/cnezatele, țările sau scaunele populate de români și autoguvernate conform dreptului românesc (ius valachicum). Pentru deosebire, populațiile slave sunt indicate cu galben-verzui, iar cele germanice cu verde.
În afară de țările românești din Transilvania, Banat, Oltenia și Maramureș, mai sunt indicate 4 ”Valahii populare” în Carpații Păduroși (Polonia, Cehia și Slovacia de astăzi) și 2 ”Valahii populare” în Balcani (Bosnia și Herțegovina de astăzi). Timocul și Homolia (Serbia de astăzi) sunt indicate ca fiind țări românești. Câmpia Panonică (Ungaria de astăzi) apare ca slab populată.
Pe această hartă este arătat un Morvlahfeld, din denumire se vede că este vorba de maurovlahi, adică de vlahii de nord. Acea zonă acum face parte din Slovacia. Interesant este că azi în acea zonă se află un orășel – Moldava nad Bodvou. Se pare că toponimul Moldova nu este neapărat legat de râul Moldova.
Cel mai lung râu din Cehia, numit în cehă Vltava (pronunțat Vâltava), un afluent al Elbei, se numește în germană Moldau, exact ca și râul Moldova din România, iar în maghiară este numit Moldva l, adică exact cum i se spune și râului Moldova. De asemenea, un afluent al râului Moldova din Cehia se numește Kalte Moldau (Studená Vltava în cehă, adică Moldova Rece), cu o lungime de 24 de km izvorăște în Germania și trece în bună parte prin această țară. Iar un alt afluent, mai lung, de 56 de km, se numește Warme Moldau (Teplá Vltava în cehă, adică Moldova Caldă).
Un pic mai la nord de Moldava nad Bodvou se afla un alt orășel – Jasovo. Am impresia că iașii și moldovenii locuiau împreună cu mult înaintea formârii principatului Moldova.”
Sursă text: preluare de pe pagina lui Vlad Cubreacov. 

The prehistoric and preindustrial deforestation of Europe

Humans have transformed Europe’s landscapes since the establishment of the first agricultural societies in the mid-Holocene. The most important anthropogenic alteration of the natural environment was the clearing of forests to establish cropland and pasture, and the exploitation of forests for fuel wood and construction materials. While the archaeological and paleoecological record documents the time history of anthropogenic deforestation at numerous individual sites, to study the effect that prehistoric and preindustrial deforestation had on continental-scale carbon and water cycles we require spatially explicit maps of changing forest cover through time. Previous attempts to map preindustrial anthropogenic land use and land cover change addressed only the recent past, or relied on simplistic extrapolations of present day land use patterns to past conditions. In this study we created a very high resolution, annually resolved time series of anthropogenic deforestation in Europe over the past three millennia by 1) digitizing and synthesizing a database of population history for Europe and surrounding areas, 2) developing a model to simulate anthropogenic deforestation based on population density that handles technological progress, and 3) applying the database and model to a gridded dataset of land suitability for agriculture and pasture to simulate spatial and temporal trends in anthropogenic deforestation. Our model results provide reasonable estimations of deforestation in Europe when compared to historical accounts. We simulate extensive European deforestation at 1000 BC, implying that past attempts to quantify anthropogenic perturbation of the Holocene carbon cycle may have greatly underestimated early human impact on the climate system.
For many regions of Europe after AD 1000, deforestation continued steadily until the period of the Black Death, around AD 1350 (Fig. 8; Table 3). The major decline in population caused by this epidemic was reflected in the widespread afforestation of many regions of Europe, and was noticeable by AD 1400. Nearly all regions displayed either a pause in deforestation or an increase in forest area. In contrast to northern and Alpine Europe, Eastern Europe experiences relatively low amounts of deforestation for most of the time domain (Fig. 8, group 2). This group, which includes Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, East Prussia, the Baltics, and most of the Russian regions, displayed relatively low forest clearance compared to other regions of Europe.

Last Glacial Maximum/Full Glacial (22,000 14C years ago) to 14,000 14C years ago. The last late Glacial from 22,000 up until just before 13,000 14C years ago was very cold and dry throughout Europe. Large ice sheets were present over much of northern Europe, and ice caps covered the Alps and the Pyrennes. Forest and woodland were almost non-existent, except for isolated pockets of woody vegetation in and close to the mountain ranges of southern Europe. Instead, a sparse grassland or semi-desert covered most of southern Europe, whilst a mixture of the dry, open ‘steppe tundra’ and polar desert covered the parts of northern Europe not occupied by ice sheets. Ice-wedge features suggest that permafrost extended across most of Europe, down to about the latitude of central France. Drifting sand and wind erosion were common in north and central Europe, and desert animals such as Saiga antelope were present as far west as France.

Younger Dryas cold interval (approx 10,800-10,000 14C y.a.). This cold and dry period saw the temporary disappearence of the woodland cover that had previously extended over much of Europe (both north and south), and its replacement by dry steppe and steppe-tundra (Velichko 1993, Jalut 1992, Laval et al. 1991, Starkel 1991). During parts of the Younger Dryas, summer temperatures in Scotland were about 9 deg.C lower than at present, with lesser changes of 4-5 deg.C in July temperatures in NW Germany and Scandinavea, where a large ice mass remained (Anderson 1997). The sudden ending of the Younger Dryas around 10,000 14C years ago – which seems to have been mainly completed over about 75 years according to the latest interpretation of a detailed Greenland ice core – marks the beginning of the Holocene interglacial. 

9,000-8,000 14C years ago. Forest had by now returned to most of Europe following the end of the cold Younger Dryas at 10,000 y.a.. The transition to peak Holocene levels of tree cover in the eastern Mediterranean seems to have taken about 1000 14C years following the end of the Younger Dryas (Rossignol-Strick 1995). Even at 9,000 y.a., however, in many parts of Europe the forest cover was still rather more open than at present. In Greece and Cyprus, the plant fossil record suggests that the ‘typical’ mediterranean vegetation of evergreen trees and shrubs expanded mainly from 8,000 14C y.a. onwards (O. Rackham, in press). Up until then, deciduous forest trees had been dominant or abundant in most areas.

At about 6,000 14C y.a. (7,500 cal. y.a.), rising Mediterranean sea waters broke through the Bosphorous. In perhaps less than a year, the Black Sea became brackish and rose several hundred feet, inundating former shores and river valleys deep into the interior. The waters would have encroached on the land at a rate of about 1 km a day. More than 60,000 square miles of land were soon submerged, a 30 percent expansion in the Black Sea’s size, which essentially gave the body of water its modern configuration. An international team of geologists and oceanographers (led by W. Ryan & W. Pittman of Lamont-Doherty) has reconstructed the history of this catastrophic flood from data gathered by a Russian research ship in 1993. Seismic soundings and sediment cores revealed traces of the sea’s former shorelines, showing an abrupt 500-foot rise in water levels. Radiocarbon dating of the transition from fresh-water to marine organisms in the cores put the time of the event at about 6,000 14C y.a.

During the 7,000-5,000 14C y.a. time interval, agriculture spread to most parts of Europe. In most parts of Europe, however, agriculture was probably still not significant as a modifier of landscape at any stage during this time interval (except on a very local scale), even though agriculturalists were present at low densities through most of Europe by 5,000 14C y.a. The main areas of extensive forest clearance by 5,000 y.a. were, (rather paradoxically) towards the opposite extremes of Europe, geographically and climatically. Crete and localised areas of Greece were showing significant forest clearance and erosion, and quite extensive areas of the English chalklands were already cleared of forest with abundant agriculture. At about 5,000 14C y.a., there is a rapid and fairly simultaneous decline in elm (Ulmus) throughout Europe. At first, this was taken to suggest widespread cutting of elm trees and branches by cattle herders living within the forests, but it is now thought to be due to elm disease, possibly (though more controversially) due to weakening of the trees by a sudden climate deterioration. By about 4,000 14C y.a., agriculture exerted significant effects on the landscape in most parts of Europe, although before about 3,000 14C y.a. large areas of forest in central and northern Europe were probably still untouched by farming.

14,500 y.a. – rapid warming and moistening of climates. Rapid deglaciation begins.
13,500 y.a. – climates about as warm and moist as today’s
13,000 y.a. ‘Older Dryas’ cold phase (lasting about 200 years) before a partial return to warmer conditions.
12,800 y.a. (+/- 200 years)- rapid stepwise onset of the intensely cold Younger Dryas. Much drier than present over much of Europe and the Middle East, though wetter-than-present conditions at first prevailed in NW Europe.
11,500 y.a. (+/- 200 years) – Younger Dryas ends suddenly over a few decades, back to relative warmth and moist climates (Holocene, or Isotope Stage 1).
11,500 – 10,500 y.a. – climates possibly still slightly cooler than present-day.
9,000 y.a. – 8,200 y.a. – climates warmer and often moister than today’s
about 8,200 y.a. – sudden cool phase lasting about 200 years, about half-way as severe as the Younger Dryas. Wetter-than-present conditions in NW Europe, but drier than present in eastern Turkey.
8,000-4,500 y.a. – climates generally slightly warmer and moister than today’s.
at 5,900 y.a. – a possible sudden and short-lived cold phase corresponding to the ‘elm decline’.
Since about 4,500 y.a. – climates fairly similar to the present
2,600 y.a. – relatively wet/cold event (of unknown duration) in many areas
1,400 y.a. {536-538 A.D.} wet cold event of reduced tree growth and famine across western Europe and possibly elsewhere.
Followed by ‘Little Ice Age’ about 700-200 ya.

GeoHistory = Geographical determination of history + historical determination of geography. Historical geography – changes to geographical aspects due to history; Geographical history – the influence of geographical factors on human history. The fusion of economic geography and world history.
Historical geography of the environment is the study of past landscapes with the purpose of identifying and understanding environmental changes and problems, especially those caused by human agency. Strabo’s initial two volumes, the Prolegomena, constituted a true theoretical and historical introduction to what we would call today the “discipline” of geography. This introduction contains outstanding statements such as: “No science more than geography is a philosophers’ affair”.
John Brooke’s Climate Change and the Course of Global History: A Rough Journey (Cambridge University Press, 2014) is a remarkable achievement with respect to the breadth and depth of literature and ideas brought to bear, including history, geography, geology, anthropology, economics, climatology, ecology, and archaeology. Environmental or geographical determinism is a set of ideas positing that physical geography is a (and in its extreme forms, the) major factor in determining human culture and societal development. Environmental determinist is used a perjorative in academic circles. Late 19th and early 20th century environmental determinism was used to support and justify racism and imperialism. 

  • It is impossible to understand the present without understanding geography.
  • It is impossible to understand the present without understanding the past.
  • It is impossible to understand the past without understanding geography.

About Alex Imreh

http://www.aleximreh.ro http://www.facebook.com/alex.imreh 0742-669918
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