Management of vegetation, plant domestication and origins of agriculture in Mesoamerica
AbstractA model of domestication of plants in Mesoamerica based on selective management of plant populations and communities by silvicultural practices is analyzed. Archaeological and ethnobotanical information suggests that intentional manipulation of vegetation by Mesoamerican peoples has occurred in past and present times in order to control availability of useful plants. Forms of management of plant communities or populations have included tolerance, protection and enhancement of individual plants of particular species during clearance of vegetation and other ways of perturbation. Processes of artificial selection (selection in situ) may be carried out through these forms of plant management. These processes may cause significant morphological differences between wild and managed populations as illustrated by the cases discussed here of Anoda cristata, Crotalaria pumila, Leucaena esculenta and Stenocereus stellatus. Processes of artificial selection in situ are mechanisms of incipient domestication of plants which appear to have been carried out in Mesoamerica, perhaps since pre-agricultural times, and that could contribute to explain the processes that led to the origins of agriculture in this region.
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