Human populations and their use of land have reshaped landscapes for thousands of years, creating the anthropogenic biomes (anthromes) that now cover most of the terrestrial biosphere. Here we introduce the first global reconstruction and mapping of anthromes and their changes across the 12,000-year interval from 10,000 BCE to 2015 CE; the Anthromes 12K dataset.
Anthromes were mapped using gridded global estimates of human population density and land use from the History of the Global Environment database (HYDE version 3.2) by a classification procedure similar to that used for prior anthrome maps. Anthromes 12K maps generally agreed with prior anthrome maps for the same time periods, though significant differences were observed, including a substantial reduction in Rangelands anthromes in 2000 CE but with increases before that time.
Differences between maps resulted largely from improvements in HYDE’s representation of land use, including pastures and rangelands, compared with the HYDE 3.1 input data used in prior anthromes maps. The larger extent of early land use in Anthromes 12K also agrees more closely with empirical assessments than prior anthrome maps; the result of an evidence-based paradigm shift in characterizing the history of Earth’s transformation through land use, from a mostly recent large-scale conversion of uninhabited wildlands, to a long-term trend of increasingly intensive transformation and use of already inhabited and used landscapes.
The spatial history of anthropogenic changes depicted in Anthromes 12K remain to be validated, especially for earlier time periods. Nevertheless, Anthromes 12K is a major advance over all prior anthrome datasets and provides a new platform for assessing the long-term environmental consequences of human transformation of the terrestrial biosphere.