GSA Annual Meeting in Phoenix, Arizona, USA - 2019

Paper No. 224-10
Presentation Time: 4:30 PM


BEACH, Timothy P.1, LUZZADDER-BEACH, Sheryl1, DUNNING, Nicholas P.2 and DALE, Jedidiah1, (1)Department of Geography and the Environment, The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX 78712, (2)Department of Geography, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH 45221-0131

We provide a preliminary synthesis of ancient Maya wetland management and investigate its potential contribution to greenhouse gas emissions and the Early Anthropocene. Research in several areas of the Yucatan Peninsula since the 1960s has indicated ancient wetland field complexes. Research across Asia over the last decade has drawn connections between the expansion of wetland agriculture and the increases in greenhouse gases over the last 5,000 years. Wetland farming systems could have contributed greenhouse gases in at least two ways: CO2 emissions through forest burning to create fields and CH4 emissions through the creation of new wet and anaerobic lands. Thus, how much CO2 and CH4 that wetland farming and reservoirs could produce depends on the forest and soil burned and the amount of land turned into or removed from wetlands over time. First, we consider Asian wetland complexes to estimate their possible greenhouse gas emissions and chronology. Second, we consider new Maya findings from remote sensing, dating, and multiple proxies for ancient management to estimate their greenhouse gas contributions and chronology. In the last few years, high resolution Lidar imagery has become available to help map the extent of ancient wetland management, but only one project in the Maya region has integrated the study of Lidar, wetland field formation, and chronology. We use this Maya area study and other studies of reservoirs to provide an estimate of the areal expanse of ancient farms and wetlands to model the factors of up-scaling wetland gas production into the atmosphere over the Maya period from 3000 to 500 years ago. We will also consider different types of wetland fields and water management to approximate which created wetlands and which drained wetlands. This paper thus provides a preliminary synthesis of ancient Yucatan wetland fields and reservoirs in terms of their possible contributions to global change and the Early Anthropocene.