Early tropical crop production in marginal subtropical and temperate Polynesia

Prebble, Matthew, Anderson, Atholl J., Augustinus, Paul, Emmitt, Joshua, Fallon, Stewart J., Furey, Louise L., Holdaway, Simon J., Jorgensen, Alex, Ladefoged, Thegn N., Matthews, Peter J., Meyer, Jean-Yves, Phillipps, Rebecca, Wallace, Rod and Porch, Nicholas 2019, Early tropical crop production in marginal subtropical and temperate Polynesia, Proceedings of the national academy of sciences of the United States of America, vol. 116, no. 18, pp. 8824-8833, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1821732116.

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Title Early tropical crop production in marginal subtropical and temperate Polynesia
Author(s) Prebble, Matthew
Anderson, Atholl J.
Augustinus, Paul
Emmitt, Joshua
Fallon, Stewart J.
Furey, Louise L.
Holdaway, Simon J.
Jorgensen, Alex
Ladefoged, Thegn N.
Matthews, Peter J.
Meyer, Jean-Yves
Phillipps, Rebecca
Wallace, Rod
Porch, NicholasORCID iD for Porch, Nicholas orcid.org/0000-0001-7179-3843
Journal name Proceedings of the national academy of sciences of the United States of America
Volume number 116
Issue number 18
Start page 8824
End page 8833
Total pages 10
Publisher National Academy of Sciences
Place of publication Washington, D.C.
Publication date 2019-04-30
ISSN 0027-8424
Keyword(s) Polynesia
commensal species
crop husbandry
Science & Technology
Multidisciplinary Sciences
Science & Technology - Other Topics
Summary Polynesians introduced the tropical crop taro (Colocasia esculenta) to temperate New Zealand after 1280 CE, but evidence for its cultivation is limited. This contrasts with the abundant evidence for big game hunting, raising longstanding questions of the initial economic and ecological importance of crop production. Here we compare fossil data from wetland sedimentary deposits indicative of taro and leaf vegetable (including Sonchus and Rorippa spp.) cultivation from Ahuahu, a northern New Zealand offshore island, with Raivavae and Rapa, both subtropical islands in French Polynesia. Preservation of taro pollen on all islands between 1300 CE and 1550 CE indicates perennial cultivation over multiple growing seasons, as plants rarely flower when frequently harvested. The pollen cooccurs with previously undetected fossil remains of extinct trees, as well as many weeds and commensal invertebrates common to tropical Polynesian gardens. Sedimentary charcoal and charred plant remains show that fire use rapidly reduced forest cover, particularly on Ahuahu. Fires were less frequent by 1500 CE on all islands as forest cover diminished, and short-lived plants increased, indicating higher-intensity production. The northern offshore islands of New Zealand were likely preferred sites for early gardens where taro production was briefly attempted, before being supplanted by sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas), a more temperate climate-adapted crop, which was later established in large-scale cultivation systems on the mainland after 1500 CE.
Language eng
DOI 10.1073/pnas.1821732116
Indigenous content off
Field of Research MD Multidisciplinary
HERDC Research category C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal
Copyright notice ©2019, the Authors
Persistent URL http://hdl.handle.net/10536/DRO/DU:30121849

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