Holocene climate change: some useful reviews

At the moment I am reading up on evidence for climatic variability during the past 5,000 years or so as part of my PhD dissertation. There is a fairly substantial and specialised body of literature in this area in journals such as Quaternary Science Review, The Holocene, Quaternary International and so on. Research in this area proceeds at a very swift pace with numerous new publications being produced each year that can have important implications for models of past environments in specific regions or at a global level.

As a non-specialist it can be a little difficult to access this body of knowledge without first consulting an authoritative overview of many other more specialised (and often arduously complex!) sources. There are several publications that I thought I would quickly highlight here today which may be of relevence to anyone interested in writing or learning about Holocene climate change.

Figure 1: Reconstructed temperature for the past 2000 years*


Climate change 2001: the scientific basis

The first is a book published in 2001 by Cambridge University Press for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) entitled ‘Climate change 2001: the scientific basis’ and edited by Houghton et al (1). This report was developed as a contribution to the IPCC Third Assessment Report and is intended to provide “…the most comprehensive and up-to-date scientific assessment of past, present and future climate change” and to “…form the standard scientific reference for all those concerned with climate change and its consequences” (2). The book principally focusses upon analysing and assessing evidence for recent climate change and in particular those changes bought on by increasing concentrations of atmospheric greenhouse gases however as part of this it reviews evidence for past environmental change, particularly in the past few thousand years. It is written in a very accessible style and provides clear explanations of key concepts and terms that appear regularly in more specialised publications (such as ‘climate forcing’, ‘proxy indicators’). Chapters 1 and 2 are probably of most relevance to people interested in understanding past climatic systems.  Almost a decade has passed since it was published and thus new data are available from more specialised sources, however this book nevertheless provides a readily accessible starting point for anyone interested in understanding past climates.

The full report can be accessed online at no cost here

Mid- to late Holocene climate change, Wanner et al 2008

A second comprehensive technical paper of note has recently been published in Quaternary Science Reviews by Wanner et al 2008 entitled ‘Mid- to Late Holocene climate change: an overview’.  As it is written for a specialised audience this particular article may not be for everyone however it provides a comprehensive review of proxy-based climatic reconstructions which apply to the past 6,000 years. It is global in coverage and aims to develop an explanatory framework for climate change and variability during the past 6000 years or so. Unfortunately, it is not freely available and you will need institutional or library access of some type, or you can purchase it online at the link below. You can download the citation directly into a bibliographic database from my citulike webpage.

The abstract is available online at the Elsevier website.

* Note: Figure 1  is a Creative Commons licenced image created for Global Warming Art, originally prepared by Robert A. Rhode. It is not drawn from either of the sources I have discussed in this post. It represents a comparison of 10 different published reconstructions of mean temperature changes over the past 2000 years and is simply included here to highlight the extent of recent (past 2000 years) climate change.

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AAA conference 2008: the land and sea session

A few months back I posted about a session that Daryl Guse, Cameo Dalley and I had proposed for the Australian Archaeological Association conference in Noosa this year. You can read that post here, but in short, the session was looking for papers about the way in which cultural heritage management is undertaken in the context of Indigenous Land and Sea Management programs in Australia. At the time we proposed the session we wondered whether it would attract much interest, however it seems it has. We had 14 papers proposed and have accepted 12 of those to go into the program. They cover a broad range of geographic areas with presenters coming along to discuss work in the Torres Strait, Mornington Island, eastern and western Arnhem Land, the Pilbara coast in north west Australia, several papers from southern Western Australia, another from the lower Murray area near Adelaide, western Victoria, western New South Wales and finally, several papers from the Wet Tropics area around Cairns. We are quite excited by the level of interest, particularly given that the session is not really about traditional archaeology (it is an archaeology conference after all).

My own paper is a joint presentation with Darlene McNaughton – my partner and an anthropologist at James Cook University. Our abstract is:

A foot in the door: mining, cultural heritage and Indigenous cultural and social values around land management

This paper explores the issue of managing indigenous cultural and social values around land and sea management in the context of large-scale mining related development in western Cape York Peninsula. There is little question of the important role that Land and Sea Centres play in managing these values: an emerging problem however is how to ensure these values are identified and managed in contexts where viable Indigenous land and sea management programs do not exist. This is a particular concern in the context of large scale mining related developments where existing Indigenous land management regimes may not be able to effectively deal with the scale and extent of land management issues bought on by mining. Without early identification it arguably becomes more difficult for Traditional Owners to have cultural and social values around a range of land and sea management issues incorporated into environmental management strategies of mining companies. Here we argue that cultural heritage management frameworks can support Indigenous land management regimes in such contexts by providing an opportunity for the early identification of social and cultural values around land and sea management.

The paper will be a little more heritage-centric than this abstract reads however we think it highlights some important issues that are often not discussed in the context of cutlural heritage management.

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AAA 2008: the Indigenous land and sea management session

I just thought I should give a quick plug to a session at this years Australian Archaeology Association Conference where a couple of colleagues and I are convening a session. The session is entitled ‘Land and Sea: Natural Resource Management versus Cultural Heritage Management’ and it is a joint session with Daryl Guse and Cameo Dalley. For the uninitiated, Land and Sea Management programs are a fairly common thing in Australia and they generally set out to provide core land and sea management services for Traditional Owner groups. They undertake various things such as environmental management work, managing or facilitating local tourism enterprises, managing heritage, managing outstations or homeland centres and all sorts of other important things.

I’m not sure where the title for our session came from – the session is not really about NRM versus CHM but more about the way in which NRM and CHM is undertaken in the context of Indigenous Land and Sea Management programs in Australia. The session abstract follows:

In this session we seek papers which explore the interaction of NRM and CHM in the context of Indigenous land and sea management programs across Australia. In recent years, these grass roots organisations have come to the fore as lead agencies in the management of what are conventionally understood as natural and cultural heritage values and resources within many remote areas. Within this context, Natural Resource Management (NRM) has gained a particularly high profile due to the imprimatur of many Government agencies to encourage ‘Natural Resource Management’ programs, i.e. fire regimes, weeds and feral animals. Funding arrangements such as the Natural Heritage Trust and even some environmental lobby groups explicitly favour such programs. This is despite the fact that managing cultural heritage (e.g. recording language, cultural heritage places and Traditional Knowledge) is of utmost importance to Traditional Owners and is often the framework within which NRM activities are understood and carried out locally. In particular, we seek papers discussing:

– successful approaches to developing cultural heritage management programs and projects in the context of Indigenous land and sea management;

– ways in which natural resource management are conceptualised or practiced as ‘cultural maintenance’ or ‘cultural heritage management’ within Indigenous communities;

– how Indigenous modes of natural resource management effectively address cultural heritage management outcomes (or vice versa);

– the changing role of archaeologists and cultural heritage practitioners working in Indigenous communities;

– case studies on holistic land and sea management programs or community-managed cultural maintenance or heritage programs;

– successful partnerships between NRM and CHM bodies (including Indigenous Rangers).
I’m not yet sure if the session will get enough papers to actually make the cut, but we are really interested in getting a bit more discussion around indigenous land and sea management centres and the important role they play (or should play) in relation to managing heritage. My interest in this stems from my work at Weipa in the area of indigenous land and sea management where I managed one such program in 05-06 and am currently helping develop several other such programs there this year. I am not yet sure what my paper will be on but will throw some ideas up here in time. I am sure Daryl and Cameo will come up with some good papers resulting from their respective work in Arnhem Land and Mornington Island.

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