12. Slash-and-Burn Agriculture
Slash-and-burn agriculture has a bigger impact on the forest than the life of the hunter-gatherers. Field burning eliminates most of the plant cover and therefore has a greater impact upon vegetation. Field burning, if small in scale, does not destroy the forest environment, however. Rather, it leads to the creation of secondary forests. In fact, if you go to Ituri forest, you frequently find secondary forests grown out of burnt fields. In those secondary forests, tree species differ from those of the mature forest, but it is noteworthy that the secondary forest accommodates more food plants than a mature forest. American ecologists, Terese and John Hart, found that a one-hectare parcel of secondary forest accommodates 13 food tree species, while a mature forest of the same size has only 6 on average. It is probably fair to say that at least until very recently, the Ituri forest, as a human living environment, was improved by this moderate level of human impact.