Mapping antebellum rice fields as a basis for understanding human and ecological consequences of the era of slavery
Model systems enlightened by history that provide understanding and inform contemporary and future landscapes are needed. Through transdisciplinary collaboration, historic rice fields of the southeastern United States can be such models, providing insight into how human– ecological systems work. Rice culture in the United States began in the 1670s; was primarily successfully developed, managed, and driven by the labor of enslaved persons; and ended with the U.S. Civil War. During this time, wetlands were transformed into highly managed farming systems that left behind a system of land use legacies when abandoned after slavery. Historically accepted estimates range from 29,950 to 60,703 ha; however, using remotely sensed data (e.g., LiDAR) and expert opinion, we mapped 95,551 ha of historic rice fields in South Carolina, USA. After mapping, the rice fields’ current wetland and land cover characteristics were assessed. Understanding the geographic distribution and characteristics allows insight into the overall human and ecological costs of forced land use change that can inform future landscapes.
Hanks, RD; Baldwin, RF; Folk, TH; Wiggers, EP; Coen, RH; Gouin, ML; Agha, A; Richter, DD; Fields-Black, EL
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