'The fog of historical ecology: an interdisciplinary collaboration investigating vegetation change in relation to human impacts, global drivers and climate change projections in the Namib desert' conference paper to be presented by Rick Rohde (co-authored with M Timm Hoffman) at the Royal Anthropological Institute conference on Anthropology, Weather and Climate Change, Panel 06 on 'Interdisciplinary dialogues or monologues across the scientific worlds of climate change'. Full programme here.
Short Abstract: Historical ecology is interdisciplinary by nature. Our presentation describes some of the processes that evolve when social and natural scientists work together. We use the example of our research into 100 years of vegetation change in Namibia in relation to human impacts, climate change and fog.
Abstract: Historical ecology research is by definition an interdisciplinary project between the social and natural sciences. Environments are fundamentally historical and untangling the interwoven effects of the history of human impacts and climate change on the ecological landscape is an important preoccupation of the discipline. This presentation describes an example of my collaboration as a social scientist with a friend and colleague in the biological sciences where we have endeavored to establish trends in environmental change in western Namibia during the last 150 years spanning the onset of colonialism into the present. Our methodology includes the use of repeat photography, historical research, ethnography, vegetation surveys, evaluation of climate records and the effects of environmental policy.
Presently we are investigating vegetation change in the Namib Desert in relation to the effects of global climate change on the large-scale weather patterns that govern the upwelling of the Benguela current, which in turn affects the fog dependent biota of this arid region. Historical trends give us insight into the causes of present conditions and allow for hypothetical speculation of future scenarios.
One of the key tensions that arises between the social and natural science view of any particular landscape resides in the negotiation between meaning and fact: as a social scientist I am conscious of the performative aspects of representing non-human nature, whereas my biological science colleague is a detached observer of nature aiming to establish empirical reality. This tension has perhaps been the most fruitful aspect of our professional relationship.