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Rull, V., T. Vegas-Vilarrúbia, and E. Montoya (2016), The neotropical Gran Sabana region: Palaeoecology and conservation, The Holocene, 26(7), 1162-1167, doi: 10.1177/0959683616632895.

The Gran Sabana (GS) is a key region for understanding the origin of neotropical savannas and is an ideal location to test ecological hypotheses on long-term vegetation dynamics under the action of natural and anthropogenic drivers. The conservation of the GS is a controversial issue because of the confluence of disparate cultural and socio-economic interests, with a strong debate surrounding fire practices by indigenous people. Late glacial to Holocene pollen and charcoal records obtained thus far in this region have documented the main palaeoecological trends along with the climatic and anthropogenic (mostly fire) drivers involved. Here, we discuss how these records can be used to inform conservation and restoration practices in the GS. The main points of the discussion are the local versus regional character of palaeoecological evidence, the support provided by this evidence for the existing fire management proposals and the role of spatiotemporal environmental and ecological heterogeneity in the definition and evaluation of realistic restoration targets. A general conclusion is that past ecological reconstructions do not fully support either of the current options for fire management, that is, either total fire suppression or the continuity of indigenous fire practices. It is recommended to replace this dual and rigid conservation framework with a more diverse and flexible approach that considers the complex spatiotemporal heterogeneity documented in palaeoecological records.

Original paper