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Book chapter2024Peer reviewedOpen access

Biological cultural heritage : using biology as a source to history

Westin, Anna; Gustavsson, Eva; Lennartsson, Tommy


This chapter will introduce a method for the use of biological cultural heritage (BCH) as an historical source. In most places where people have been active, they have left traces in nature, intentionally or unintentionally, which constitute a biological cultural heritage. Examples are occurrences of plants and animals that are favoured or actively introduced by humans, trees scarred by former leaf cutting or grazing damage, remnants of vegetation from an abandoned pasture, entire human-formed landscapes, and much more. BCH is probably the most widespread type of cultural heritage outside of urban areas. Interpretation of such traces uses ecological knowledge about how species and individual trees react in natural and culturally shaped conditions, in combination with historical knowledge about former human activities, from sources such as historical documents, oral information, archeological knowledge, aerial photos etc. The method of interpretation weaves together the different kinds of information in a stepwise procedure in order to increase the knowledge about how humans depended on and shaped ecosystems. We exemplify with case studies from Sweden and Central Europe.

Published in

CBM:s skriftserie
2024, number: 130, pages: 68-99 Title: Practicing Historical Ecology : Methods for the Collection, Analysis, and Integration of Interdisciplinary Historical Data
eISBN: 978-91-88083-45-6
Publisher: SLU Swedish Biodiversity Centre, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences