The myth persists that in 1492 the Western Hemisphere was an untamed wilderness and that it was European settlers who harnessed and transformed its ecosystems. But scholarship shows that forests, in particular, had been altered to varying degrees well before the arrival of Europeans. Native populations had converted much of the forests to successfully cultivated stands, especially by means of burning. Nevertheless, some researchers have maintained that the extent, frequency, and impact of such burning was minimal. One geographer claims that climatic change could have accounted for some of the changes in forest composition; another argues that burning by native populations was done only sporadically, to augment the effects of natural fires.
However, a large body of evidence for the routine practice of burning exists in the geographical record. One group of researchers found, for example, that sedimentary charcoal accumulations in what is now the northeastern United States are greatest where known native American settlements were greatest. Other evidence shows that, while the characteristics and impact of fires set by native populations varied regionally according to population size, extent of resource management techniques, and environment, all such fires had markedly different effects on vegetation patter than did natural fires. Controlled burning crated grassy openings such as meadows and glades. Burning also promoted a mosaic quality to North and south American ecosystems, creating forests in many different stages of ecological development. Much of the mature forestland was characterized by open herbaceous undergrowth, another result of the clearing brought about by burning.
In North American, controlled burning created conditions favorable to berries and other fire-tolerant and sun-loving foods. Burning also converted mixed stands of trees to homogeneous forest, for example the longleaf, slash pine, and scrub oak forests of the southeastern U.S. natural fires do account for some of this vegetation, but regular burning clearly extended and maintained it. Burning also influenced forest composition in the tropics, where natural fires are rare. An example is the pine-dominant forests of Nicaragua, where warm temperatures and heavy rainfall naturally favor mixed tropical or rain forests. While there are primarily grow in cooler, drier, higher elevations, regions where such vegetation is in large part natural and even prehuman. Today, the Nicaraguan pines occur where there has been clearing followed by regular burning, and the same is likely to have occurred in the past: such forests ere present when Europeans arrived and were found only in areas where native settlements were substantial; when these settlements were abandoned, the land returned to mixed hardwoods. This succession
is also evident elsewhere in similar low tropical elevations in the Caribbean and Mexico.
1. Which one of the following most accurately expresses the main idea of the passage?
(A) Despite extensive evidence that native populations had been burning North and South American forests extensively before 1492, some scholars persist in claiming that such burning was either infrequent or the result of natural causes.
(B) In opposition to the widespread belief that in 1492 the Western hemisphere was uncultivated, scholars unanimously agree that naive population were substantially altering North and South American forests well before the arrival of Europeans.
(C) Although some scholars minimize the scope and importance of the burning of forests engaged in by native populations of North and South American before 1492, evidence of the frequency and impact of such burning is actually quite extensive.
(D) Where scholars had once believed that North and South American forests remained uncultivated until the arrival of Europeans, there is now general agreement that native populations had been cultivating the forests since well before 1492.
(E) While scholars have acknowledged that North and South American forests were being burned well before 1492, there is still disagreement over whether such burning was the result of natural causes or of the deliberate actions of native populations.
2. It can be inferred that a forest burned as described in the passage would have been LEAST likely to display
(A) numerous types of hardwood trees
(B) extensive herbaceous undergrowth
(C) a variety of fire-tolerant plants
(D) various stages of ecological maturity
(E) grassy opening such as meadows or glades
3. Which one of the following is a type of forest identified by the author as a product of controlled burning in recent times?
(A) scrub oak forests in the southeastern U.S.
(B) slash pine forests in the southeastern U.S.
(C) pine forests in Guatemala at high elevations
(D) pine forests in Mexico at high elevations
(E) pine forests in Nicaragua at low elevations
4. Which one of the following is presented by the author as evidence of controlled burning in the tropics before the arrival of Europeans?
(A) extensive homogeneous forests at high elevation
(B) extensive homogeneous forests at low elevation
(C) extensive heterogeneous forests at high elevation
(D) extensive heterogeneous forests at low elevation
(E) extensive sedimentary charcoal accumulations at high elevation
5. With which one of the following would the author be most likely to agree?
(A) The long-term effects of controlled burning could just as easily have been caused by natural fires.
(B) Herbaceous undergrowth prevents many forests from reaching full maturity.
(C) European settlers had little impact on the composition of the ecosystems in North and South America.
(D) Certain species of plants may not have been as widespread in North American without controlled burning.
(E) Nicaraguan pine forests could have been created either by natural fires or by controlled burning.
6. As evidence fro the routine practice of forest burning by native populations before the arrival of Europeans, the author cites all of the following EXCEPT:
(A) The similar characteristics of fires in different regions.
(B) The simultaneous presence of forests at varying stages of maturity
(C) The existence of herbaceous undergrowth in certain forests
(D) The heavy accumulation of charcoal near populous settlements
(E) The presence of meadows and glades in certain forests.
7. The “succession” mentioned in line 57 refers to
(A) forest clearing followed by controlled burning of forests
(B) tropical rain forest followed by pine forest
(C) European settlement followed by abandonment of land
(D) homogeneous pine forest followed by mixed hardwoods
(E) correct the geographical record
8. The primary purpose of the passage is to
(A) refute certain researchers’ view
(B) support a common belief
(C) counter certain evidence
(D) synthesize two viewpoints
(E) correct the geographical record