We employed paleolimnological methods to investigate tropical forest recovery and soil stabilization that followed abandonment of agricultural systems associated with disintegration of Classic Maya polities ca. A.D. 800-1000. We used lithological, geochemical, magnetic, and palynological data from sediment cores of Lake Petén Itzá in the Maya Lowlands of northern Guatemala. Sediment core chronology was developed using radiocarbon dates on terrestrial wood and charcoal fragments. Our results indicate that in the absence of large human populations and extensive farming activities, Petén forests recovered under humid climate conditions within a span of 80-260 yr. Soil stabilization postdates pollen evidence of forest regrowth stratigraphically, and required between 120 and 280 yr. We conclude that the tropical forest ecosystem in the watershed of Lake Petén Itzá had been reestablished by the early Postclassic Period (A.D. 1000-1200).
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