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Prehistoric Garbage Piles Created "Tree Islands"

samzenpus posted more than 3 years ago | from the there's-some-lovely-filth-down-here dept.

Science 111

sciencehabit writes "Piles of garbage left by humans thousands of years ago may have helped form 'tree islands' in the Florida Everglades--patches of relatively high and dry ground that rise from the wetlands. They stand between 1 and 2 meters higher than the surrounding landscape, can cover 100 acres or more, and host two to three times the number of species living in the surrounding marsh. Besides providing habitat for innumerable birds, the islands offer refuge for animals such as alligators and the Florida panther during flood season. The trash piles—a mix of discarded food, charcoal, shell tools, and broken pottery—would have been slightly higher and drier than the surrounding marsh, offering a foothold for trees, shrubs, and other vegetation."

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Soooo.... (1)

Dexter Herbivore (1322345) | more than 3 years ago | (#35595172)

McDonald's wrappers could be the swamp saving trash of the future?

Re:Soooo.... (4, Informative)

mcrbids (148650) | more than 3 years ago | (#35595242)

To be fair, the historic "garbage" was quite different in composition than the garbage we generate today.

Re:Soooo.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35595812)

There is a difference between garbage and trash, but yes, trash today is quite different than in prehistoric times.

Re:Soooo.... (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 3 years ago | (#35596592)

There is a difference between garbage and trash

Uhhh... what?

Re:Soooo.... (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35596668)

A difference? It's rubbish!

Re:Soooo.... (1)

tehcyder (746570) | more than 3 years ago | (#35599952)

There is a difference between garbage and trash, but yes, trash today is quite different than in prehistoric times.

But they're both called rubbish in proper English..

Re:Soooo.... (5, Funny)

lennier1 (264730) | more than 3 years ago | (#35596182)

... than the garbage we generate today

True, they didn't have Reality TV back then.

Re:Soooo.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35597496)

One man's trash is another man's island?

New campaign title (1)

Chemisor (97276) | more than 3 years ago | (#35597860)

Let's start a nationwide campaign to improve the quality of our garbage! When you think of garbage - think of Akim!

Re:Soooo.... (0)

magarity (164372) | more than 3 years ago | (#35595256)

McDonald's wrappers could be the swamp saving trash of the future?

Apparently; so that was the plan behind the environmentally conscious crowd bullying them into no longer using those easily recyclable styrofoam containers! The switch to waxy cups and paper is designed to provide future ecosystems.

Re:Soooo.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35595292)

easily recyclable styrofoam containers

currently, the majority of polystyrene is not recycled.

This one again. (2, Informative)

Whiney Mac Fanboy (963289) | more than 3 years ago | (#35595642)

Apparently; so that was the plan behind the environmentally conscious crowd bullying them into no longer using those easily recyclable styrofoam containers!

I am afraid that you are totally incorrect in thinking a switch to paper increases the volume of waste.

There is a persistent myth that the McDonalds foamed polystyrene containers were more recyclable than their current paper packaging. This myth is used by people to try and show the environmental movement is emotional, rather than pragmatic & forward thinking (typically, there is a condescending "ho-ho-ho, those silly environmentalists have made the environment worse by replacing a recyclable product with a non-recyclable product" attitude).

However, the facts are that:

1) Food contaminated products are not recycled (most McDs food packaging is unsurprisingly contaminated by food)
2) Almost no foamed polystyrene is recycled in any case.
3) Switching to paper reduced McDonald's waste by around 90%

Re:This one again. (3, Insightful)

demonlapin (527802) | more than 3 years ago | (#35595676)

Correspondingly, there is a real ignorance of why polystyrene foam was originally considered such an environmental bugbear - after all, we're surrounded by the stuff; it's not as though a landfill full of foam would be likely to contaminate groundwater or hurt anyone (inks/dyes aside). The real reason? It was originally blown with nonflammable, nontoxic, non-oxidizing CFCs. "Styrofoam is bad" has been absorbed, but the disappearance of the original reason why has been ignored.

Re:This one again. (3, Funny)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 3 years ago | (#35596354)

(most McDs food packaging is unsurprisingly contaminated by food)

Well, if you call that food, yes.

Re:This one again. (2)

moonbender (547943) | more than 3 years ago | (#35597308)

At least we can agree that the packaging is contaminated.

Re:This one again. (1)

Chemisor (97276) | more than 3 years ago | (#35597874)

Whether you call it food or garbage, you still can make an island out of it. And I want one.

Re:This one again. (1)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 3 years ago | (#35599252)

1) Food contaminated products are not recycled

Um, what? Maybe you mean "Food contaminated products are not reused", because aluminum cans, glass, newspaper, and cardboard are all recycled after food contamination. Heck, glass is even reused after food contamination.

Re:This one again. (2)

magarity (164372) | more than 3 years ago | (#35600448)

However, the facts are that:

1) Food contaminated products are not recycled (most McDs food packaging is unsurprisingly contaminated by food)
2) Almost no foamed polystyrene is recycled in any case.
3) Switching to paper reduced McDonald's waste by around 90%

1) It can be cleaned, 2) that it isn't doesn't mean it can't be. It can be, see #1. 3) sure, but see #2: if the foam were all recycled, waste volume from packaging would be reduced 100%.
 
My point is not about what IS done, but what COULD be done. What IS done is that Styrofoam not recycled much, but that wasn't my point. It IS easily recyclable, should we choose to do so, and that is NOT a myth. Wax or plastic coated paper is NOT recyclable and this is NOT a myth; please cite any source claiming it can be recycled. At best, it can be burned easily. The only non-myth is that paper comes from trees that can be re-grown while foam is a petroleum product. However, since it is a byproduct of the refining process. Until the cars all run from sunshine it seems more efficient to make use of refining byproducts and just let the trees grow taller but I guess I'm just crazy.

Re:Soooo.... (3, Funny)

ozmanjusri (601766) | more than 3 years ago | (#35595304)

trash of the future?

In Florida, trashy is always in.

Re:Soooo.... (2)

DrSpock11 (993950) | more than 3 years ago | (#35595350)

Maybe we can look forward to a new continent in the Pacific where our current floating garbage is.

Re:Soooo.... (1)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 3 years ago | (#35595700)

Isn't florida basically the compressed skelletons of billions of sea creatures anyway? What's a little trash on top of that...

Re:Soooo.... (1)

lennier1 (264730) | more than 3 years ago | (#35596196)

Isn't that where they ship all the old folks? Sort of like an elephant graveyard for old farts in bermuda shorts.

Re:Soooo.... (1)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 3 years ago | (#35596942)

I was talking about the ancient coral beds....

Re:Soooo.... (2)

lysdexia (897) | more than 3 years ago | (#35597484)

Tomato/Tom-Ah-My back!

Re:Soooo.... (1)

sorak (246725) | more than 3 years ago | (#35597668)

So what you and GP are telling us is, "Florida is where everything goes to die"?

Re:Soooo.... (1)

bipedalhominid (1828798) | more than 3 years ago | (#35597742)

Yes, it is. Spent several years there and they got like 800 handicapped parking spaces in front of any major food outlet. If you try to shop in a grocery store the aisles are full of old folks walking around real slow. If you commute to work in the early am you get cut off by folks whose medicines have not kicked in yet. All in all, it's got great beaches, wonderful fishing but lots of retired folks. If you can handle that it's great. Oh, forgot about the hard to get house insurance, constant boom and bust of the real estate market, hot as hell if your not within 10 miles of the coast, mosquitoes, hurricanes, ... List goes on and on. Nice place to visit, as the saying goes.

Re:Soooo.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35598596)

they don't call it "Gods Waiting Room" for nothing!

Re:Soooo.... (1)

balbus000 (1793324) | more than 3 years ago | (#35598748)

But I live in Florida you insensitive clod!

And I think my UID shows I am nowhere near retirement.

Re:Soooo.... (1)

plopez (54068) | more than 3 years ago | (#35598742)

Yeah, it is a part of Jersey after all......

Horatio says... (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35595178)

There's bound to be some people who find this theory... *sunglasses* ...rubbish.

YEAAAAAAAAAAAAH!

Re:Horatio says... (1)

webmistressrachel (903577) | more than 3 years ago | (#35595206)

I take it the "sunglasses" are actually heavy duty laser safety goggles, to protect you from the geeky laser light backlash from the audience of this "joke"?

Re:Horatio says... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35595342)

You make so many comments about other people being trolls, some might think you ... *sunglasses* ... live under a bridge

OOH A GIERL ON SLASDHOT!!!!! WOOT (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35595454)

Wou,ld u care 2 liuck my ballsz?

Re:OOH A GIERL ON SLASDHOT!!!!! WOOT (1)

tsalmark (1265778) | more than 3 years ago | (#35595470)

How long have you been waiting to say that?

Re:OOH A GIERL ON SLASDHOT!!!!! WOOT (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35595792)

welcome to the Internet where the guys are guys, the girls are guys and the 10 year olds are FBI agents.

Re:OOH A GIERL ON SLASDHOT!!!!! WOOT (1)

nstlgc (945418) | more than 3 years ago | (#35596314)

I think that went something like "where the woman are men, the men are 10 year old boys and the 10 year old boys are FBI agents".

Re:OOH A GIERL ON SLASDHOT!!!!! WOOT (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 3 years ago | (#35596602)

Are these FBI agents hawt?

Re:Horatio says... (2)

c0lo (1497653) | more than 3 years ago | (#35595606)

TFS:

The trash piles—a mix of discarded food, charcoal, shell tools, and broken pottery—would have been slightly higher and drier than the surrounding marsh, offering a foothold for trees, shrubs, and other vegetation.

TFA:

The so-called tree islands of the Everglades are patches of relatively high and dry ground that rise from the wetlands. They stand between 1 and 2 meters higher than the surrounding landscape, can cover 100 acres or more

I can imagine a bunch of pre-historic humans having their lunch in a pool-bar [google.com] only to discard the bones and other scraps to form those "trash piles", raise the ground and form the islands. And probably doing it for some centuries, in continuous "mad-hatter lunch", to cover 100 acres and more.

Seriously, don't you think the areas should have been already raised above the water level for this to actually happen? And if already raised, does it necessary require humans discarding scraps (or would it be enough any land-living predators to eat their prey on a slightly raised surface of land)?

Re:Horatio says... (2)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 3 years ago | (#35596378)

I suspect that since humans despise sleeping in soggy beds, that any place humans inhabited would have been raised above swamp level in the first place, yes. I also suspect that a patch of raised ground of over 100 acres indicates a conscious effort on the behalf of a large number of residents to raise the ground above flood level, not just them chucking their garbage on the floor. In South American they carted in rich, fertile soil from the marshes for agriculture -- why wouldn't Florida natives have done the same?

Re:Horatio says... (1)

Half-pint HAL (718102) | more than 3 years ago | (#35596704)

And probably doing it for some centuries, in continuous "mad-hatter lunch", to cover 100 acres and more.

You don't need the midden mound to account for the whole size of the tree-island -- as the roots grow and leaf-litter gathers, a tree-island could grow of its own accord.

HAL.

Re:Horatio says... (1)

cusco (717999) | more than 3 years ago | (#35598106)

Ten thousand years ago the ocean was considerably lower than it is now, because of the water locked up in glaciers, so the water table was much lower and the Everglades were considerably smaller than today. What today is bog would probably have been fairly dry at the time. Any long-term settlement (even if only used seasonally( would have raised the level of the ground slightly. Millenia of trees would have raised it more, and expanded the area as well.

Re:Horatio says... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35596448)

There's bound to be some people who find this theory... *sunglasses* ...rubbish.

YEAAAAAAAAAAAAH!

After which he continues to threaten bodily harm to innocent suspects and sends some more suspects to the hospital because he doesn't have sufficient evidence to proof they did it. Gotta love a cop that's worse than half the criminals he catches.

Great Pacific Garbage Patch (1)

denshao2 (1515775) | more than 3 years ago | (#35595188)

History repeats itself.

Re:Great Pacific Garbage Patch (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35595218)

History repeats itse...doh!

Oblig... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35595200)

I for one, welcome our new trashy island overlords.

Worth a try... (4, Funny)

zill (1690130) | more than 3 years ago | (#35595254)

"But officer, it's not littering. I'm building a habitat for endangered species!"

Re:Worth a try... (1)

rust627 (1072296) | more than 3 years ago | (#35595328)

"But officer, it's not littering. I'm building a habitat for Future endangered species!"

There, fixed it for you.

US Navy have run this one a few times... (0)

VendettaMF (629699) | more than 3 years ago | (#35595808)

>> "But officer, it's not littering. I'm building a habitat for endangered species!"

The US Navy have run this scam a few times...

"It's not a derelict hulk scuttled in a delicate ecosystem! It's a hub for a new coral reef!"

Re:US Navy have run this one a few times... (3, Informative)

realityimpaired (1668397) | more than 3 years ago | (#35596680)

When they scuttle a ship, they usually pick an area that's completely devoid of life. Having dived multiple such sites in various stages of their evolution, I can tell you that it's actually a pretty effective way to build an artificial reef. In parts of the carribbean, you can dive down, and see a completely empty and devoid plane of nothing but sand on the floor of the sea, save for a ship rising up out of the mud, which is home to crustaceans, corals, anemones, fish, and other forms of life that just aren't seen anywhere else in the area.

When a ship sinks by accident, however, they don't have that kind of control.

Re:US Navy have run this one a few times... (1)

boxwood (1742976) | more than 3 years ago | (#35596998)

Actually that is true, coral does grow well on sunken ships. They strategically sink old ships in carefully selected areas in australia for this exact reason. Or maybe the Australian government and the scuba divers in Australia have been bought off by the US Navy to propagate your lie. Oh and not just Australia, other countries do this too.

Re:US Navy have run this one a few times... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35597378)

So do Greenpeace, they scuttled the damaged Rainbow Warrior in 1987 as an artificial reef.

Re:US Navy have run this one a few times... (1)

mangu (126918) | more than 3 years ago | (#35597234)

The US Navy have run this scam a few times...

"It's not a derelict hulk scuttled in a delicate ecosystem! It's a hub for a new coral reef!"

The procedure for creating artificial reefs takes several months. The ship is carefully scrubbed clean, all toxic substances are removed before scuttling.

Very misleading (-1)

Palmsie (1550787) | more than 3 years ago | (#35595290)

Describing clay pottery and shells as garbage is incredibly misleading. For an article that claims to be from a scientific website, this is a shame. This article is the reason no-brainer issues become politicized. Some poor consumer of the internet will go and tell policy-maker Mr. XYZ that garbage helps the environment. Enter stage left BP, Exxon. Mr. Policy-Maker says that pollution isn't a big deal -> Who cares about pollution, oil, etc. And the sustainable energy movement takes yet another step back all because of some pop-science article claiming garbage helps the environment. Are you kidding me...

Re:Very misleading (5, Insightful)

d1r3lnd (1743112) | more than 3 years ago | (#35595340)

It's not that misleading - it was trash. And while you seem to be getting awfully worked up about the hypothetical political pull of this article, I'd like to note that environmental stressors (including oil, and, yes, even nuclear reactors) have affected the Earth long before our species even existed, and will no doubt continue to do so well after we're gone.

I'm sorry, what I meant to say is that you're a special snowflake and your mere existence will leave an indelible mark on our world.

Oh, the hubris of mankind.

Re:Very misleading (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35595994)

Yes, we aren't the sole cause of these effects. However, that doesn't mean that we aren't playing any part in causing them and that we shouldn't try to make our habits more environmentally and technologically efficient. Ridding ourselves of more pollution can only be good.

Re:Very misleading (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 3 years ago | (#35596624)

Ridding ourselves of more pollution can only be good.

I like to get rid of my pollution by burning everything.

Very Very misleading (I love irony) (1)

poptones (653660) | more than 3 years ago | (#35595358)

Are there any landfills left that do NOT capture and use the gasses let off from decomposition?

And yes, if you live in the woods and ceramics is the highest form of technology available to you, then broken pottery is absolutely GARBAGE - just as broken hair dryers and used up toothbrushes are garbage to us.

Many communities even collect yard trash, christmas trees and other organic matter for composting in community run composting centers. How is all this "garbage" harming the environment? Natural gas is worth money; compost is worth money; anyone tellling a policymaker to ignore these facts is not likely to be given much creedence.

Re:Very misleading (5, Insightful)

LordLucless (582312) | more than 3 years ago | (#35595418)

So because some people are stupid, scientific articles should be forbidden from using totally appropriate and correct terminology (here's a hint: broken pottery and shells are prehistoric garbage). Way to retard forward progress buddy!

I guess we should avoid master-slave hardware paradigms, or the term blackboard due to racial sensitivity too, huh? We need to tailor all our language to appease the ignorant, after all.

Re:Very misleading (1)

Belial6 (794905) | more than 3 years ago | (#35595838)

I have run into that in real life. A number of years ago, a woman in one meeting was complaining that one database was called the master, and another was called the slave. She was completely serious. Very sad.

Re:Very misleading (1)

sodul (833177) | more than 3 years ago | (#35596132)

Re:Very misleading (1)

michelcolman (1208008) | more than 3 years ago | (#35596188)

And I suppose male and female plugs will be the next to be attacked?

Re:Very misleading (3, Funny)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 3 years ago | (#35596392)

It's those RS-232 "Gender Changers" that I find offensive and repugnant! ;-)

Re:Very misleading (1)

Half-pint HAL (718102) | more than 3 years ago | (#35596734)

Shhhh!!! Don't give the wireless lobby ideas!!!

Re:Very misleading (1)

mangu (126918) | more than 3 years ago | (#35597022)

And I suppose male and female plugs will be the next to be attacked?

Absolutely. To call plugs "male" and "female" offends the sensitivity of the gay community, since it implies that it's not right to plug a male into another male.

Re:Very misleading (1)

sorak (246725) | more than 3 years ago | (#35597776)

And I suppose male and female plugs will be the next to be attacked?

Absolutely. To call plugs "male" and "female" offends the sensitivity of the gay community, since it implies that it's not right to plug a male into another male.

Please stop this. I don't want to have to hire a priest to hook up my television cables, just so I won't be watching the news "in sin"

Re:Very misleading (1)

Quirkz (1206400) | more than 3 years ago | (#35598816)

Drifting offtopic, but a friend got mad at me when I called her a belligerent drunk, because she thought I was calling her dumb, rather than argumentative. Even when the real definition was given to her, she maintained that I was at fault for using a word she thought meant something else. While this story demonstrates that she's both argumentative AND dumb, I was only trying to say one of those two to her face.

Wow a new island forms off New York (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35595412)

You mean that fecal mountain of trash and sludge dumped off the coast of New York may be the next place for the rich and famous to live?

Re:Wow a new island forms off New York (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35596240)

You are talking about Staten Island, right? I see wut you did there.

Correlation is not causation (2)

jklovanc (1603149) | more than 3 years ago | (#35595442)

How do we know that the garbage didn't collect because the land was drier so people lived there?

Re:Correlation is not causation (5, Insightful)

Psychotria (953670) | more than 3 years ago | (#35595504)

How do we know that the garbage didn't collect because the land was drier so people lived there?

Yes, well... there are a few obvious things to look at

a) Humans do not generally live on top of their rubbish dumps; if they did they'd have to continually rebuild their homes on top of the accumulated rubbish. While not completely implausible, the evidence would still be there if this is the course of action the people took
b) The important thing is not the current height of the "islands" but the height of the islands minus the accumulated rubble/rubbish

Do you think that the people writing the study didn't consider these two items that I just pulled off the top of my head? I'm sure if they didn't then their peers would have throughout the review process.

The "correlation is not causation" argument is valid, but I tend to think it's overused; it's only really valid if you read the original paper and the limitations, assumptions and methodology within.

Re:Correlation is not causation (3, Interesting)

wvmarle (1070040) | more than 3 years ago | (#35595688)

The rubbish in this situation was

a mix of discarded food, charcoal, shell tools, and broken pottery

While of course people do not likely live on top of their trash, lack of motorised transport means that trash likely wasn't moved far away. Especially charcoal which can be re-used as fuel. Broken pottery well from daily accidents. Shell tools just left behind. Discarded food smells and attracts predators so that one is something they would likely try to at least take to the perimeter of their settlement.

So indeed I think it's likely a combination: dryer patches where humans started to live, making the patches even dryer with their activities. And considering we're talking humans here, I wouldn't be surprised if those activities were intentional. Like bringing in rocks or soil, or even deliberately keeping their broken pottery as foundation, to make the area better to live on. Maybe they were involved in agriculture already? The article indeed mentions that in some cases there was clear evidence of trees and shrubs growing at that place before the arrival of the human settlers.

Re:Correlation is not causation (2)

Psychotria (953670) | more than 3 years ago | (#35595750)

The rubbish in this situation was
 

a mix of discarded food, charcoal, shell tools, and broken pottery

While of course people do not likely live on top of their trash, lack of motorised transport means that trash likely wasn't moved far away. Especially charcoal which can be re-used as fuel. Broken pottery well from daily accidents. Shell tools just left behind. Discarded food smells and attracts predators so that one is something they would likely try to at least take to the perimeter of their settlement.

So indeed I think it's likely a combination: dryer patches where humans started to live, making the patches even dryer with their activities. And considering we're talking humans here, I wouldn't be surprised if those activities were intentional. Like bringing in rocks or soil, or even deliberately keeping their broken pottery as foundation, to make the area better to live on. Maybe they were involved in agriculture already? The article indeed mentions that in some cases there was clear evidence of trees and shrubs growing at that place before the arrival of the human settlers.

Excellent response, and I agree with everything you state. None of these scenarios, however, invalidate the hypothesis that prehistoric garbage piles (helped) create tree islands.

In colonies of people that I've experienced who have no kind of motorised transport or anything else your summary is indeed what happens -- rubbish is not far removed from the villages and will naturally accumulate over time. But, the original height of the land is still something you can measure (if there are garbage fragments in the soil profile). In remote parts of Papua New Guinea, local villagers deliberately "mine" nearby sources of (for example) limestone to reinforce "foundations". Likewise, rubbish is not moved far away and more non-degradable rubbish is used in much the same way as imported foundation material. So, yes, you are of course correct. I still think that my response to the correlation does not equal causation argument is correct (i.e. it's not applicable in this case).

Re:Correlation is not causation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35596158)

Hmm. Actually, for that specific list of trash... our distant ancestors have actually used all that as compost. Particularly in some sites in south america that are currently jungles, but were once the croplands of ancient civilizations. The ground there is STILL more fertile than elsewhere, so much so that it's visible from aerial photos (different stuff thrives there, so the colors are different from overhead).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terra_preta . Interesting reading. We're still trying to figure out how to manufacture the stuff; it's better than what we current make/use/have in modern farmland.

Re:Correlation is not causation (2)

c0lo (1497653) | more than 3 years ago | (#35595708)

Yes, well... there are a few obvious things to look at

a) Humans do not generally live on top of their rubbish dumps; if they did they'd have to continually rebuild their homes on top of the accumulated rubbish. While not completely implausible, the evidence would still be there if this is the course of action the people took

How insightful items you can pull from the top of you head !!! Given the mortgage and the price of labor, it is highly unlikely that constantly/frequently rebuilding their homes would ever occur. And, indeed, the "buried under trash" home would have been preserved, the today's diggers would certainly find the concrete foundations, beams, fragments of windows glass and frames, and why not...possibly some remains of split air conditioning systems?

Here's [wikipedia.org] an artist impression of how a villa of that time would be presented by real-estate agents for the potential investors.

Re:Correlation is not causation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35595870)

Iron age People did live on there rubish dumps... Most rubish was often discarded in a pile outside the dwelling. It was the humans proximity to thier garbage that temped dogs into human viliges, giving humans acess to easily domesticatable dogs (ones that did not fear human settlements).

Re:Correlation is not causation (1)

findoutmoretoday (1475299) | more than 3 years ago | (#35595928)

<quote>
<p>The "correlation is not causation" argument is valid, but I tend to think it's overused; it's only really valid if you read the original paper and the limitations, assumptions and methodology within.</p></quote>

" So residents' trash may have helped the island grow, but it didn't get the ball rolling, he says. ... it's just as likely, if not more so, that the phosphorous that nourishes a tree island's vegetation comes from the prodigious amounts of guano left by birds attracted to the ecosystem there. ...."

Re:Correlation is not causation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35596310)

Historically we do live on or adjacent to our rubbish dumps (to expensive to move all that shit) and many archaeological sites consist of layers of buildings on top of rubbish - often called middens by our archaeological brethren

Re:Correlation is not causation (1)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 3 years ago | (#35596416)

If they are nomadic people returning on an annual basis to the same shellfishing grounds, then they would be "rebuilding their homes on top of the accumulated rubbish" every year anyway. Tents aren't that hard to move. I'd suspect these "islands" are mostly shell, and humans aren't the only animals that leave piles of shells lying around after eating. As for (b), when you pile stuff up in a swamp, the underlying ground tends to sink, so I'm not sure how accurately that can be measured.

Oh, come on! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35596628)

This is slashdot.

People don't RTFA, let alone the scientific paper *behind* TFA...

Re:Correlation is not causation (1)

jklovanc (1603149) | more than 3 years ago | (#35598316)

Remember you are talking about a swamp. there is no dry land to walk away on and throw away the garbage.

As for "peer review", I do not believe that Science Now is a peer reviewed journal. Another issue is that many scientists have a theory and then set out to prove it. That is not the scientific method. That do not consider alternate scenarios and work hard to prove themselves right.

A very plausible explanation for raised areas is alligator nesting. Alligators mound up muck, sticks and vegetation to lay their eggs. Humans come along and occupy these islands. Since it is water the rubbish tips are at the waters edge. Humans probably enlarged the islands, along with the action of trees, but I doubt they created them.

Re:Correlation is not causation (1)

myowntrueself (607117) | more than 3 years ago | (#35598606)

a) Humans do not generally live on top of their rubbish dumps

I've been in rural China. While they don't live literally on top of their rubbish dumps, they just open the front door and throw rubbish into the street where it forms a big pile down the road. Very colorful, very stinky, very huge.

Re:Correlation is not causation (0)

rtb61 (674572) | more than 3 years ago | (#35596550)

These are pretty large. So think of piled up debris from hurricanes, up rooted trees et al. Now after a hurricane the debris piles are cleaned up or at least relocated and compacted.

Not to worry with record extreme weather, perhaps after the next couple of record hurricanes and the stripping of government services to feed tax cuts for millionaires, the next bunch of debris piles will be around for long enough so you can see the ecology develop in abandoned Florida suburbs.

Simply not possible (1)

EmagGeek (574360) | more than 3 years ago | (#35596626)

There is no way human activity can contribute to the creation of habitat for wild animals and other organisms. Human activity can only destroy and kill. :rolleyes:

cause/effect? (3, Interesting)

argStyopa (232550) | more than 3 years ago | (#35596690)

It seems like they simply found middens with some regularity deep in/on these tree islands.

Therefore one scientist contends that some of the islands may have grown from middens. Isn't it substantially more plausible that primitive humans, who generally tend to want to stand/sit/live on dry ground, would have sought out these relatively isolated (and thus somewhat safer) locations for habitation? That the middens are found deep in the islands only seems to me to mean that this - the value of a secure home - was even obvious to primitive humans?

One comment in the article bothered me: "The authors say the findings show that human disturbance of the environment doesn't always have a negative consequence." That seems...a rather insipid comment.

Those Islands Form Anyway (4, Informative)

b4upoo (166390) | more than 3 years ago | (#35596790)

Without humans having a thing to do with it those islands form all the time. They form to a degree that the state has a machine that goes in and destroys the island. All that happens is that any irregularity that causes a bottom to be slightly shallower in a spot will tend to attract plants which over time build a thicker and thicker mat of cast off materials held in place by the roots of the plants. At a certain point the mat becomes heavy enough to actually press down against the bottom and trees and shrubs flourish making the little islands even more solid.
              The device that eats these islands looks like a paddle wheel boat with the paddle wheel in the very front of the boat. That wheel beats into the vegetation and pushes it onto a barge like deck. The operator keeps the wheel chopping at the island until the entire island is loaded on the barge. Sadly large nuimbers of bass and other fish as well as snakes and turtles are also loaded onto the barges.

Re: Those Islands Form Anyway (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35598694)

The islands of interest in the article are formed on top of shells, bones, pottery, etc. Naturally formed islands in Southwest Florida are not. Those form based on tidal movement, debris pileup and hurricanes and they don't get higher than a few feet above sea level. The highest points of elevation in SW Florida are actually Calusa Indian Mounds (Indian Hill and Mound Key).

Very little is known about the Calusa Indians who built these shell mound islands. We know that Juan Ponce De Leon died by an arrow from them. They also ruled the entire southern half of the state. Their few remaining descendants eventually moved off to Cuba and integrated with the Spanish colonies there.

On a side note I was running around Mound Key (their presumed capital island) back in the mid '90s as a Boy Scout and tripped over an object half-buried in the sand. We pulled it out of the earth and it was about 4 feet long, cylindrical and bored out at both ends but extremely rusted. Turned out to be an old spanish musket barrel.

Re: Those Islands Form Anyway (1)

SleazyRidr (1563649) | more than 3 years ago | (#35598834)

Why does the state destroy the islands?

"1 and 2 meters higher" ?? (1)

aapold (753705) | more than 3 years ago | (#35597042)

I often visit the everglades. 2 meters would be a mountain in the everglades. When walking through the tree islands (called "hammocks" or "heads") I don't recall seeing anything this high in the everglades at all. There are differences in elevation, yes, and they do affect or reflect differences in plant species. But you're mostly talking about a difference of a few inches. Certainly not meters. The park guides always point out how the hardwood hammocks occur in areas maybe a few inches higher than the sawgrass prairie.... maybe a meter if you're comparing their elevation to the floor of a slough...

"Wtf??" (1)

eyenot (102141) | more than 3 years ago | (#35597532)

I read TFA, and seriously, it meanders and sort of wilts away before it's even halfway through. It's almost like the people interviewed to support the theory abandon the theory mid-sentence and just give up trying to say that, seriously, people threw all this trash into one spot and did this.

Are we to go against all of our understanding of native Americans being a people who utilize every single remnant of every possible thing in some design, or tool set, or medicine? All of a sudden there's this idea to just "chuck shit into the bog over there" until it makes an island just sort of out of nowhere?

Somebody else on /. already commented that it's far more likely that this was a conscious effort to raise the land above sea level for habitation. If I recall this is already folk lore about the natives in Florida, that they purposefully land-filled sections of the Everglades. If that's the case how is this news?

One person asked if there wasn't some sign that those natives were "already agricultural". I believe there is a lot of evidence supporting the idea that any attempts to subdue and reform natural environs is directly evidence of domestication of some plant or animal, and that domestication and agriculture are fairly frequent bedfellows. So I'd guess probably.

And another person remarked that it's just as likely that these sediment layers formed on top of existing humps of land and that the discarded remnants of -- what again? Animal matter -- were left behind by their fellow animal predators. There's nothing in the article about broken pottery, tools, or any other signs of human habitation, just "peat", "soil" (as differentiated from peat which is a soil form, so I'm guessing sandy soil mixture), "bones" and "guano". Peat is just semi decayed plant matter. Any standing or accumulating water that can host plant life can produce peat. The only remaining question is what moves large amounts of soil around. It wouldn't even take moving a large quantity of soil to create these mounds.

There are so many possible and even likely scenarios, that I had to wonder what their evidence was. But there are no cited findings in TFA. Just some theories!

And then there's this entire slant, the whole way it's presented from title to certain remarks in the article, that suggest it's alright to haphazardly discard trash. Even going so far as to contradict the founded image of natives as conservationist and leading waste-less lifestyles. So I'm wondering, wtf? Who asked this person to writ this article, do they have vested interest in waste management, and was there money involved?

The theorist is from Canada. I live in Michigan and I know firsthand that Canada prefers to dump their trash in America.

Re:"Wtf??" (1)

parens (632808) | more than 3 years ago | (#35599430)

Are you aware that middens are found nearly everywhere humans habitate for any appreciable length of time ? Middens of discarded oyster shells are all over the New York City-area, not to mention the UK, parts of Kentucky and Tennessee around the Mississippi River, among many others.
Your assertion that Native Americans are some sort of mythical creature who used "every last remnant of the buffalo" or whatever is pretty outdated - perhaps in comparison to white settlers, they used more, but it's not like they would have been horrified at the thought of discarding shells.
I'm not supporting the claims made in TFA, just pointing out that middens are pretty widespread and common, all over the place.

shell middens common throughout the state (2)

datapharmer (1099455) | more than 3 years ago | (#35597572)

This is hardly news to anyone living in Florida. There are shell middens all over the state... They are almost always by water and nearly all contain broken pottery, oyster and clam shells and broken artifacts. The natives essentially threw hard garbage in a spot, waited until it stopped smelling and then used it to keep above the water line and the mosquitos. Pretty smart really. A lot of roads in florida have the shell middens underneath instead of limestone. It wasn't until the last couple decades that they started protecting them as something of historical/archeological value. God only knows how much history was lost as we paved our way to suburbia in the 50s and 60s.

Re:shell middens common throughout the state (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 3 years ago | (#35600186)

A lot of roads in florida have the shell middens underneath instead of limestone.

The loose and unconsolidated shell material under most roads in Florida are the remains of sandbars and shallows that accumulated over the millenia that Florida was mostly sandbars and shallows and then later bulldozed up. Not shell middens. Left alone that material would eventually have become coquina and with more time and pressure, limestone.
 

God only knows how much history was lost as we paved our way to suburbia in the 50s and 60s.

Not much - Florida was pretty much not suburbia outside of limited areas in the 50's and 60's. Florida's real growth started in the 70's.
 
(Why yes, yes I did grow up in Florida.)

We're still doing it (3, Interesting)

dtmos (447842) | more than 3 years ago | (#35597576)

By far the highest points in south Florida are its landfills; see, for example, this beauty [google.com] on Florida's Turnpike in Deerfield Beach. When global warming floods the area in [insert date of your choice here], these landfills will become tree islands in the new Everglades.

Re:We're still doing it (2)

earls (1367951) | more than 3 years ago | (#35599356)

Florida. What a dump.

Correlation or Causation (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35598322)

Is the trash there because humans also took shelter in these tree islands, or did the trash create the tree islands?

Canadian researchers in Florida (1)

Another, completely (812244) | more than 3 years ago | (#35598582)

Canadian researchers had a winter in Florida on expenses and got a publication out of it? Win!

Ok, so wading through the everglades to dig for ancient garbage while avoiding the alligators isn't everyone's idea of vacation, but Montreal got some real snow this winter.

Poppycock (0)

critic1987 (2025202) | more than 3 years ago | (#35598730)

Has no one considered the fact that... Thousands of years ago the only humans inhabiting the Florida region were small Native American tribes? So how could they possibly create such huge landfills by themselves? Much less, those tribes consisted of maybe dozens of people at best, whom would never be able to create that much waste. Especially as the only inhabitants for "thousands of years" were people who utilized anything and everything to the max, and could never possibly create enough waste or trash to form these "Tree Islands". There is no way that this information is credible.

Re:Poppycock (1)

Zorque (894011) | more than 3 years ago | (#35598896)

Sounds like you're the expert, then. Why don't you publish a peer-reviewed paper and show those "researchers" how smart you are.

Re:Poppycock (1)

findoutmoretoday (1475299) | more than 3 years ago | (#35600254)

Maybe not trash, but old cultures did create raised fields.  Like in "Raised Fields for Sustainable Agriculture in the Bolivian Amazon"
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