Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

The Peninsula’s earliest agricultural systems were unsustainable

18.09.2008
A team of Catalan and Andalusian researchers has proved that the first agricultural systems on the Iberian Peninsula became ever more unsustainable with the passage of time. The study involved the analysis of fossilised grains of wheat and barley from Los Castillejos (Granada), an area of archaeological remains where cereals were cultivated between 4000 and 2500 BCE.

Mónica Aguilera, an engineer from the Vegetable Physiology Unit at the University of Barcelona (UB) and co-author of the study, told SINC that the natural levels of stable carbon and nitrogen isotopes were measured in order to estimate the yield and nutritional status of the ancient crops. “The size of the grain and levels of the carbon 13 (13C) isotopes allowed us to estimate yield, while the nutritional status of the crop was analysed by measuring levels of the nitrogen 15 (15N) isotopes,” the researcher explained.

Figures revealed by the study show a reduction of around 35% in the yield of wheat crops and 30% in barley between the years 4000 and 2500 BCE (end of the Bronze Age). The average weight of the grains of these cereals also fell by 10 miligrammes (33%) and 12 mg (38%) respectively. The research also revealed a 33% reduction in the nitrogen content of the wheat grains and 56% in barley.

“These figures suggest that the agricultural system of the region in the south east of the peninsula became unsustainable over time, and that this was not due to a lack of water,” says Aguilera. The scientists have looked into the water available to the cereals by the end of their cultivation period, based upon the carbon isotope component, and have obtained approximately constant values (around 120 mm) for the entire period studied, which makes it seem the decline in yield had no apparent relation to drought events. These estimates, however, contrast with current rain measurements in the area (around 60 mm in April and May).

The researchers have also observed a close relationship between the seasonal variations of the cereals and those of weeds. Barley was most abundant at the same time as wasteland weeds (common in uncultivated land and rubbish tips, such as nettles, mallow, celery, goosefoot and clover), while wheat flourished at the same time as weeds more characteristic of land cultivated with cereals (such as poppies, plantains, knotweeds and various grassy plants).

“This suggests that there was a separate system of cultivation for the two cereals: barley was possibly relegated to marginal areas, while the potentially more fertile fields were reserved for wheat, which was more abundant and very probably the principal crop for human consumption in the primitive agricultural systems of the south east of the peninsula,” said Aguilera.

The results of the study show a link between the decline in the status of the crops and a progressive loss in soil fertility, and reinforce the hypothesis that the first agricultural activities in the Mediterranean area had a negative impact on ecological and environmental conditions there.

The scientists chose the Los Castillejos archaeological site because it shows evidence of a continuous period of cereal cultivation over more than 1,500 years, starting in the Neolithic, when agriculture first appears in the region. However, they have contrasted their data with other results from Arkaute (Álava), Guadahortuna (Granada) and various areas in Catalonia and Castilla-La Mancha, as well as with other sites in Syria and the eastern Mediterranean.

Researchers from the University of Barcelona, the University of Lleida and the Archaeology Museum of Catalonia, as well as archaeologists from the University of Granada and the Andalusian Centre for Iberian Archaeology (University of Jaén), took part in the study, “which uses original means to apply a range of novel methodologies derived from the use of stable carbon and nitrogen isotopes in palaeoclimatic and environmental reconstruction,” according to Aguilera.

| alfa
Further information:
http://www.plataformasinc.es

More articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science:

nachricht Microjet generator for highly viscous fluids
13.02.2018 | Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology

nachricht Sweet route to greater yields
08.02.2018 | Rothamsted Research

All articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Demonstration of a single molecule piezoelectric effect

Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale

Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...

Im Focus: Hybrid optics bring color imaging using ultrathin metalenses into focus

For photographers and scientists, lenses are lifesavers. They reflect and refract light, making possible the imaging systems that drive discovery through the microscope and preserve history through cameras.

But today's glass-based lenses are bulky and resist miniaturization. Next-generation technologies, such as ultrathin cameras or tiny microscopes, require...

Im Focus: Stem cell divisions in the adult brain seen for the first time

Scientists from the University of Zurich have succeeded for the first time in tracking individual stem cells and their neuronal progeny over months within the intact adult brain. This study sheds light on how new neurons are produced throughout life.

The generation of new nerve cells was once thought to taper off at the end of embryonic development. However, recent research has shown that the adult brain...

Im Focus: Interference as a new method for cooling quantum devices

Theoretical physicists propose to use negative interference to control heat flow in quantum devices. Study published in Physical Review Letters

Quantum computer parts are sensitive and need to be cooled to very low temperatures. Their tiny size makes them particularly susceptible to a temperature...

Im Focus: Autonomous 3D scanner supports individual manufacturing processes

Let’s say the armrest is broken in your vintage car. As things stand, you would need a lot of luck and persistence to find the right spare part. But in the world of Industrie 4.0 and production with batch sizes of one, you can simply scan the armrest and print it out. This is made possible by the first ever 3D scanner capable of working autonomously and in real time. The autonomous scanning system will be on display at the Hannover Messe Preview on February 6 and at the Hannover Messe proper from April 23 to 27, 2018 (Hall 6, Booth A30).

Part of the charm of vintage cars is that they stopped making them long ago, so it is special when you do see one out on the roads. If something breaks or...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

2nd International Conference on High Temperature Shape Memory Alloys (HTSMAs)

15.02.2018 | Event News

Aachen DC Grid Summit 2018

13.02.2018 | Event News

How Global Climate Policy Can Learn from the Energy Transition

12.02.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Fingerprints of quantum entanglement

16.02.2018 | Information Technology

'Living bandages': NUST MISIS scientists develop biocompatible anti-burn nanofibers

16.02.2018 | Health and Medicine

Hubble sees Neptune's mysterious shrinking storm

16.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>