Cultural land-use and vegetation dynamics in the uplands of northern Portugal from the middle Ages to the Modern period

Carla Sá Ferreira, Gill Plunkett, Luis Fontes

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In Europe, mountain landscapes have evolved in a long‐term relationship with human communities and present‐day landscapes reflect that ancient interaction. The present study aims to reconstruct human activity in twomountain areas in northern Portugal using palynological analysis integrated with the available regional historical,archaeological and palaeo environmental archives. Pollen records from two sedimentary sequences span the Medieval and Modern periods and show that mixed agriculture and livestock grazing were consistently present in both regions throughout these times. Variations in cultural indicators show that the extent of farming fluctuated throughout time, with a general increase in cultivation during the Medieval period but with contractions likely coinciding with times of social disturbance. Historical sources suggest that sociopolitical factors and population pressure were fundamental in the utilisation of upland spaces. This study did not find any convincing evidence to suggest that fire was a fundamental factor in heathland spread. We conclude that long‐term occupation of the uplands was sustained by low‐intensity land use throughout the Medieval to post‐Medieval periods, and that the present landscape has assumed a very different character following depopulation of the mountain areas and a shift towards commercial forestry.© 2020 The Authors. Journal of Quaternary Science Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)695-705
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Quaternary Science
Issue number5
Early online date19 May 2020
Publication statusPublished - 20 Jun 2020


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