Anthroecology: A New Synthesis

Why did behaviorally modern humans and no other multicellular species in the history of the Earth gain the capacity to transform an entire planet? Biology alone cannot explain this – Homo sapiens is just another species in the genus Homo with a few distinctive traits- not including stone tools (common to all species in the genus) and fire (common to […]

All is not loss: Plant Biodiversity in the Anthropocene

What are we humans doing to biodiversity in the Anthropocene? Causing Earth’s sixth mass extinction? (e.g. Barnosky et al. 2011 and others). How about something completely new to biodiversity on this planet? How about a massive globalization of species leading to the widespread emergence of novel ecosystems enriched with exotic and domesticated species (Hobbs et al. 2009). That’s the main […]

The Biosphere we created: 1700 to 2000

“So how did the biosphere become anthropogenic anyway?” asked an astute audience member at my 2007 AGU presentation (powerpoint). I had just given a presentation on my work with Navin Ramankutty demonstrating that human populations and their use of land have reshaped most of the terrestrial biosphere into anthropogenic biomes, or anthromes (Ellis and Ramankutty 2008). Great question! I had […]

An early history of rice

When did rice change the planet? Rice is the most important food crop on earth, feeding more than half of all humans. Most is produced in Asia in the flooded paddy systems that form the core of the most intensively-managed of all ancient agricultural anthromes, the rice villages, where its high productivity in response to sophisticated irrigation schemes and traditional […]

On observing human nature

Ecologists are studying the least human parts of the most human ecosystems and the most human parts of the wildest ecosystems while favoring the Temperate zone over the Tropics (Nature News Article by Zoë Corbyn: “Ecologists shun the urban jungle”). That’s what we’ve learned since Laura Martin, a graduate student at Cornell’s Department of Natural Resources, came to me with […]

Used biosphere for sale (looks good on paper)

Looking for a new view of an old biosphere? Now, you can buy a wall-sized version of our first Anthropogenic Biomes map over at The map includes pictures of different anthromes and is based on the paper “Putting people in the map: Anthropogenic Biomes of the World”. Excellent for classroom use or anywhere else people ponder the planet. (Full […]

Getting in touch with your human ecosystem

Do you feel uneasy? Maybe your local ecosystem has taken a turn for the worse. According to ecopsycology, we humans suffer profound discomfort when our habitat feels like it is being degraded. As discussed in an article in this week’s NY times magazine. Ecopsychology proposes that “an imperiled environment creates an imperiled mind”, and an imperiled planet can have the same […]

The remotest place on Earth

People are everywhere these days, but if you really want to “get away from it all”, the remotest place on Earth, aside from Antarctica, turns out to be Tibet. This from a New Scientist article (and related blog post) that explores travel times in the global accessibility map we discussed in a blog post last year. The “remotest point on […]

The Nature within now matters most

Should we conserve nature even if it is not wild? Humans have transformed 40% of earth’s ice-free land into crop fields, pastures and settlements, and have embedded another 37% within used and populated landscapes (anthromes). While 23% is still free of people and their use of land, these remaining wildlands are mostly found in the driest and coldest parts of […]

What is a human habitat?

by Jonathan Dandois Here is an open question to the group and readers: Is there a typical human habitat, and if so, what does it look like? More than likely, there is a distribution of different habitat types that humans occupy at a global, regional, and even local levels, but perhaps there are some common patterns. I realize that the […]

Our landscapes are reflected in the clouds

When we change our landscapes, we change the clouds above and thereby climate – this from new evidence just published by Jingfeng Wang (Wang et al., 2009) and a team of researchers in Rafael Bras’s climate lab at MIT. By observing cloud patterns and other climate parameters in deforested areas of Brazil, their work demonstrates that local and regional patterns […]

You CAN get there from here

A new global “accessibility” map further demonstrates that humans now have easy access to almost all of Earth’s land. Using global data for roads and other transportation systems, researchers at the European Commission and the World Bank developed a map of access time, in minutes to cities. This has yielded many interesting statistics- for example, more than 90% of Earth’s […]