Dr. Allan James is a distinguished professor emeritus from the University of South Carolina, Columbia, Department of Geography. His presentation reviews the concepts of pre- and post-settlement of sediment. It will address questions, such as "What is 'natural' and what were landscapes in North America like prior to European arrival?" He writes, "It is often assumed, for the sake of restoration and environmental management, that native Americans had little environmental impact, so pre-settlement landscapes can be regarded as natural. Over the last 30 years, however, this 'pristine myth' view has been challenged by paleoecologists, cultural geographers and anthropologists. Pre-settlement indigenous populations were substantial and land use was intensive in some locations, but where is the geomorphic evidence of this? The 'geomorphic paradox' between ecological disturbance and geomorphic stability needs to be reconciled."
He also asks, "With regard to post-settlement sedimentation, did aggradation-degradation episodes necessarily follow the plow and the mine? Are environmental impacts overblown ('myth of environmental devastation,' Butzer)?" James also writes, "Preliminary small-scale mapping of studies documenting legacy sediment in temperate North America shows distinct patterns of post-settlement sedimentation from agriculture in the eastern and central USA and isolated catchments with mining sediment in the west. Yet, large gaps where evidence of legacy sediment is missing, cover most of the area of the USA. This presentation briefly outlines and attempts to explain these unresolved questions regarding pre- and post-settlement landscape processes and provides examples drawn from case studies to illustrate these concepts."
James received a BS degree in geography at the University of California, Berkley, MS degrees in water resource management and geography, and a PhD in geography and geology at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. His primary research interests are in river and watershed science, fluvial geomorphology, and linking human impacts on river systems to historical sedimentation and flood hydrology. He has served as chair of the Geomorphology Specialty Group of AAG, a panelist to the Geomorphology and Quaternary Science Division of GSA, founding editor of the GSG_AAG web page, and national councilor to the AAG.