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The legacy of past human activity on soil, landforms and vegetation (co-organized)
Convener: Anna Schneider  | Co-Conveners: Elisa Carrari , Florian Hirsch , Giovanni Mastrolonardo 
Human activity shaped many environments over time resulting in characteristic modifications of the land surface and soil. Widespread examples for anthropgenic landforms are charcoal hearth sites, ridge and furrow systems, agricultural terraces, grazing structures or burial mounds. Despite of their widespread distribution, such anthropogenic landscape features are rarely considered in environmental studies and even just their mapping is still fragmentary. However, these small-scale anthropogenic legacies provide a valuable archive function for geoarchaeological studies on past human activities and past land use and their occurrence still affects the ecosystems. In fact, these sites often differ from the surrounding environment regarding their soil chemical (e.g., soil pH, organic matter content, carbon chemistry, nutrient contents) and physical properties (e.g., bulk density, water retention, soil temperature regime) representing heterogeneity drivers in the ecosystems. As a consequence of their specific ecological conditions, the sites can exhibit altered species composition and diversity, plant growth or cover. Therefore, these anthropogenic soils and landforms have an enormous potential for process-related research, e.g., for studying long-term effects of charcoal (or “biochar”) accumulation in soils.
In this session, we would like to gather studies focusing on different small-scale anthropogenic relief features, working on various scales and in different ecosystems in order to compare the legacy effects of different land use types. We invite contributions that approach the ecological, geomorphological and geoarchaeological significance of anthropogenic land use legacies by:
- mapping the occurrence of anthropogenic relief features, e.g., using remote sensing data, digital elevation models, or field surveys
- analyzing their occurrence and distribution in relation to natural and cultural landscape structures, using, e.g., GIS, geoarchaeological dating, or dendroanthracology
- characterizing/determining/investigating their specific soil and sedimentological properties, e.g., soil stratigraphy, carbon dynamics, or nutrient availability
- studying their effects on plants and ecosystems, e.g., forest composition and diversity, plant growth rates, or soil microbial communities
- evaluating consequences for land management, e.g. archaeological relevance, heritage value, conservation strategies
By bringing together such studies, the session aims at making a step towards an assessment of the effects of land use legacies on a landscape scale. We intend to organize a journal special issue for publication of session contributions.