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Feb 03, 2014
The reconstruction of human-driven, Earth-shaping dynamics is important for understanding past human/environment interactions and for helping human societies that currently face global changes. However, it is often challenging to distinguish the effects of the climate from human activities on environmental changes. Here we evaluate an approach based on DNA metabarcoding used on lake sediments to provide the first high-resolution reconstruction of plant cover and livestock farming history since the Neolithic Period. By comparing these data with a previous reconstruction of erosive event frequency, we show that the most intense erosion period was caused by deforestation and overgrazing by sheep and cowherds during the Late Iron Age and Roman Period. Tracking plants and domestic mammals using lake sediment DNA (lake sedDNA) is a new, promising method for tracing past human practices, and it provides a new outlook of the effects of anthropogenic factors on landscape-scale changes.