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Niche construction on Bali: the gods of the countryside
Stockholm University, Stockholm Resilience Centre.
2011 (English)In: Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Biological Sciences, ISSN 0962-8436, Vol. 366, no 1566, 927-34 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Human niche construction encompasses both purely biological phenomena, such as the evolution of lactose tolerance, and dual inheritance theory, which investigates the transmission of cultural information. But does niche construction help to explain phenomena in which conscious intention also plays a role? The creation of the engineered landscape of Balinese rice terraces offers a test case. Population genetic analysis and archaeological evidence are used to investigate whether this phenomenon emerged historically from trial and error by generations of farmers, or alternatively was designed by Bali's rulers. In light of strong support for the former hypothesis, two models are developed to explore the emergence of functional structure at both local and global scales. As time goes forward and selected patterns of irrigation schedules are implemented, local variation in rice harvests influences future decisions by the farmers, creating a coupled human-natural system governed by feedback from the environment. This mathematical analysis received a measure of empirical support when government agricultural policies severed the local feedback channels, resulting in the almost instantaneous collapse of rice harvests. The historical process of niche construction may also have included an evolution of religious consciousness, reflected in the beliefs and practices of the water temple cult.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2011. Vol. 366, no 1566, 927-34 p.
National Category
Environmental Sciences
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-67307DOI: 10.1098/rstb.2010.0308OAI: diva2:469921
Available from: 2011-12-27 Created: 2011-12-27 Last updated: 2012-01-04Bibliographically approved

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Lansing, J. Stephen
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