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There's no "there" there.
Saturday, April 24 2004 @ 08:06 AM UTC
Contributed by: visualizer
Views: 7482

You often hear that "parrots were meant to be in the wild, where humans do not belong, where humans do not intervene," or similar ravings. It's bunk.

Humans need the wild places even more as everyone on the planet migrates to cities.

Without the natural world we'll go insane, as E.O. Wilson and others have demonstrated with the Biophilia Hypothesis. And cities need to incorporate more of the wild places, so that animals have more places to flourish as global warming wreaks havoc in the miniscule areas we've delineated as their reservations.


When I was in Sao Paulo there were parrotlets zooming like pocket rockets at treetop level, zipping down the streets and between apartment buildings. I could look out my apartment window throughout the day and watch their acrobatics. Like the parrots in southern California who eat ornamentals, they found plenty of good eating in the landscaping of Sao Paulo. These were native, wild flocks happy and thriving at home in a megalopolis of more than 15 million people.

This convergence of human habitation and parrot is old news to the parrots. In Africa and South America, many of today's most populous parrot habitats were created by humans, probably between 500 and 2500 years ago.

So far scientists have identified the basin of the Brazilian Amazon and other regions of South America such as Ecuador and Peru, plus Western Africa (Benin, Liberia) and the savannas of South Africa as sites where people lived and parrots (and nature) thrived. In fact, researchers now believe that the Amazon rainforest wasn't always there -- that the indigenous people created it.

The Spanish associated the Amazon basin with the fabled El Dorado. Until recently, no one understood why.

"Terra preta" or dark earths is what the Brazilians call a rich, black soil first noticed by scientists in the Amazon jungle. Based on current estimates from recent soil studies, ten percent of the Amazon basin consists of soils identified as terra preta -- ancient Amerindian compost.

Archaeologists have confirmed that the Amazon basin was once a vast collection of villages and cities connected by raised causeways (running straight for miles and aligned to certain astronomical markers), criss-crossed by miles of irrigation canals; the area teemed with hundreds of thousands of people.

Where people lived and farmed is where most parrots lived -- and stayed, long after the European diseases killed off most of the people and the pitiful remnants hid in their forest-creations to escape the slavers.

We can't very well put parrots into a wild that doesn't know the touch of humans, because they've not lived in that kind of environment for millennia. Their native lands were created by humans.


There's no "there" there. | 3 comments | Create New Account
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Authored by: MikeSchindlinger on Thursday, May 06 2004 @ 10:44 PM UTC
Wow, this person has a VERY short time-frame, if he thinks that people precede parrots. Parrots as a group are one of the oldest orders of birds, dating back as a distinct group perhaps 65 million years, according to recent fossil evidence. Humans are very new on the scene, even in the vastness of Africa.

And just because he saw them living in a city (as some species can adapt) does in no way mean that all parrot species could. Just as sparrows and pigeons can adapt to human disturbance but many warbler species cannot, parrot species will differ in their dietary needs, and especially breeding cavity needs; some will need to be preserved with the habitat that supports them.

While it is nice to think that hundreds of thousands of people in ancient amazonia could have had an effect on the forest there in pre-Columbian times, I remain skeptical.


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References for the article.
Authored by: visualizer on Thursday, May 27 2004 @ 04:17 AM UTC
You are encouraged to familiarize yourself with the following research (in no particular order):

Sombroek, Wim, et al: "Terra Preta and Terra Mulata: pre-Columbian Amazon kitchen middens and agricultural fields, their sustainability and their replication." Proceeds of the 17th WCSS, 14-21 August 2002, Thailand, symposium 18, paper 1935

Skemstad, Jan, et al: "Charcoal Carbon in US Agricultural Soils." Soil Sci Soc Am J (2002) 66:1249-1255

Yin, Bei, et al: "Bacterial Functional Redundancy along a Soil Reclamation Gradient." Appl Environ Microbiol (2000) 66:4361-4365

Dilly, Oliver, et al: "Bacterial Diversity in Agricultural Soils during Litter Decomposition." Appl Environ Microbiol (2004) 70:468-474

Heckenberger et al: "Amazonia 1492: Pristine Forest or Cultural Parkland?" Science (2003) 301:1710-1714

Heckenberger, M. (in press): The Ecology of Power. Routledge.

Mann, Charles C.: "The Good Earth: Did People Improve the Amazon Basin?" Science (2000) 287:788

------: "The Real Dirt on Rainforest Fertility." Science (2002) 297:920-923

------: "The Forgotten People of Amazonia." Science (2002) 297:921

Willis, et al: "How 'Virgin' is Virgin Rainforest?" Science (2004) 304:402-403

I'd also suggest Michael Rosenzweig's Win-Win Ecology (Oxford, 2003).

Love the red herrings introduced in the previous post: not a compelling defence of skepticism.

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There's no "there" there.
Authored by: MikeSchindlinger on Tuesday, June 08 2004 @ 05:37 PM UTC
Thanks for the information, and links! I'll take a good look.


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