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Environmental analysis in human evolution and adaptation research


Human evolution and ecology analyses argue that environment is a major factor influencing biological and sociocultural adaptation, but they rarely analyze environmental properties. Multiple problems of perspective and method can arise from the normative and nondynamic environmental descriptions which pervade these analyses. This paper examines human adaptation frameworks to identify theoretical guidelines for environmental description in ways appropriate to available theories of biocultural evolution or congruent with known ecosystem qualities. Concepts and terminology are given for describing the spatial and temporal properties characteristic of ecosystems and central to hypotheses about ecological adaptation. These include: patchiness and grain; stability and resilience; persistence and recurrence; and predictability, constancy, and contingency. Field experience, theory, and the qualities of ecosystems themselves suggest that detailed, historical (long-term) environmental analysis is necessary to determine the role of ecological factors in human evolution and adapation. © 1980 Plenum Publishing Corporation.

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