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Title: Islands and human impact : under what circumstances do people put unsustainable demands on island environments? : evidence from the North Atlantic
Author: Mairs, Kerry-Anne
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 2007
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Firstly, hypothesis-led research focussed on the islands of Suouroy and Sandoy in the Faroe Islands. Secondly, comparative led interpretations focussed on the importance of the Faroes within the wider Norse North Atlantic. A landscape-scaled, historical ecology approach incorporating original data from landscape mapping, stratigraphic profile analyses, archaeological survey and semi-structured interviews was developed. Maps were produced of soil degradation and geomorphic features in the Hov catchment and north Sandoy, 226 archaeological structures on two walk-over archaeological surveys were mapped, interviews were made with four Sandoy residents, 86 stratigraphic sections were recorded and a chronological framework was provided by 54 radiocarbon dates. The following interpretations were made: Two significant environmental thresholds have influenced development of the mid-late Holocene Faroe Islands landscape. The most significant occurred prior to human settlement between c.2900-2300 cal yrs BP as a result of deteriorating climate in the North Atlantic. The second is less distinct and occurred as two phases, c.60-400AD and c.400-650 AD. Human impacts through the introduction of livestock may have caused environmental changes at these times but there is no firm evidence of human occupation in the Faroes prior to the sixth century. Human impact in the Faroes has been overshadowed by earlier climatically induced impacts. Human impact in the Faroes is in part limited because dynamic elements of the landscape were already established prior to landnám, because the landscape was open and deforested at the time of the settlement and because erosion was limited by the diversification of subsistence strategies. In Iceland, analyses of 98 sediment stratigraphies incorporating 1127 tephras and 769 calendar dates across 10 landholdings were compared with the Faroes data. It is concluded that Iceland may have suffered more severe environmental degradation because its biota and soils were sensitive to human impact and because the Norse subsistence strategy focussed principally on pastoral agriculture.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available