Historical perspectives on contemporary human–environment dynamics in southeast Africa

Kristina Douglass, Jonathan Walz, Eréndira Quintana Morales, Richard Marcus, Garth Myers, Jacques Pollini

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


The human communities and ecosystems of island and coastal southeast Africa face significant and linked ecological threats. Socioecological conditions of concern to communities, governments, nongovernmental organizations, and researchers include declining agricultural productivity, deforestation, introductions of non-native flora and fauna, coastal erosion and sedimentation, damage to marine environments, illegal fishing, overfishing, waste pollution, salinization of freshwater supplies, and rising energy demands, among others. Human–environment challenges are connected to longer, often ignored, histories of social and ecological dynamics in the region. We argue that these challenges are more effectively understood and addressed within a longer-term historical ecology framework. We reviewed cases from Madagascar, coastal Kenya, and the Zanzibar Archipelago of fisheries, deforestation, and management of human waste to encourage increased engagement among historical ecologists, conservation scientists, and policy makers. These case studies demonstrate that by widening the types and time depths of data sets we used to investigate and address current socioecological challenges, our interpretations of their causes and strategies for their mitigation varied significantly.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)260-274
Number of pages15
JournalConservation Biology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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