How Joannites’ economy eradicated primeval forest and created anthroecosystems in medieval Central Europe
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During European states’ development, various past societies utilized natural resources, but their impact was not uniformly spatially and temporally distributed. Considerable changes resulted in landscape fragmentation, especially during the Middle Ages. Changes in state advances that affected the local economy significantly drove trajectories of ecosystems’ development. The legacy of major changes from pristine forest to farming is visible in natural archives as novel ecosystems. Here, we present a high-resolution densely dated multi-proxy study covering the last 1500 years from a peatland located in CE Europe. The economic activity of medieval societies was highly modified by new rulers—the Joannites (the Order of St. John of Jerusalem, Knights Hospitaller). We studied the record of these directorial changes noted in the peat profile. Our research revealed a rapid critical land-use transition in the late Middle Ages and its consequences on the peatland ecosystem. The shift from the virgin forest with regular local fires to agriculture correlates well with the raising of local economy and deforestations. Along with the emerging openness, the wetland switched from alkaline wet fen state to acidic, drier Sphagnum-dominated peatland. Our data show how closely the ecological state of wetlands relates to forest microclimate. We identified a significant impact of the Joannites who used the novel farming organization. Our results revealed the surprisingly fast rate of how feudal economy eliminated pristine nature from the studied area and created novel anthroecosystems.
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