Agriculture in the Forest

Ecology and rationale of shifting cultivation

Authored by: Olivier Ducourtieux

Routledge Handbook of Forest Ecology

Print publication date:  October  2015
Online publication date:  October  2015

Print ISBN: 9780415735452
eBook ISBN: 9781315818290
Adobe ISBN: 9781317816447


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Agriculture is now one of the main types of land use in the world. According to the FAO, forests covered only 31 per cent of the land in the world in 2011, while land used for agriculture – i.e. arable land, permanent crops and pastures – counted for 38 per cent. However, in the history of humankind, agriculture is a recent invention (Mazoyer and Roudart, 2005). With the transition from the hunter-gatherer lifestyle to one of agriculture during the Neolithic Revolution, farmers quickly expanded their activity into forest areas. Here, they developed shifting cultivation, an agricultural practice with temporal rotations in forest ecosystems.

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