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Long-term coastal adaptation, food security and poverty alleviation in Latin America

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - TRADITION (Long-term coastal adaptation, food security and poverty alleviation in Latin America)

Reporting period: 2019-09-01 to 2021-02-28

TRADITION aims to understand the long-term trajectory of human interaction with coastal resources and its legacy to present day small-scale fisheries in Latin America. Founded on traditional knowledge rooted in the past, small-scale fisheries are a crucial source of food and livelihood for millions of people worldwide, and play a pivotal role in poverty eradication in developing countries. A thorough recognition of the cultural and socio-economic significance of Latin American fisheries requires a temporal component that only archaeology and history can provide. TRADITION will investigate a 4000-year record of coastal exploitation in one of the world's most threatened tropical environments: the Atlantic forest of Brazil. We will draw together archaeological, palaeoecological, historical and ethnographic records to address fundamental questions that impinge upon our current understanding of the development of small-scale fisheries in this region. How did coastal economies adapt to the spread of agriculture? What was the impact of past climate and environmental changes on coastal populations? What was the impact of European colonisation of the Americas on the development of small-scale fisheries? What was the role of historical institutions and regulations in the negotiation between traditional and modern practices in small-scale fisheries? How have the historical practices and events shaped current small-scale coastal communities, and can this knowledge benefit current management strategies. The answers will help us understand how coastal economies responded to unprecedented societal and environmental changes by adapting their subsistence practices, technology and culture, while contributing to the foundation of coastal societies in Latin America.
The first 18 months of TRADITION was centred on three large fronts: 1) implementing the project and its management and operation structure at UAB (and York), 2) recruit the relevant personnel (PDRAs, PhD, Senior Technician) and 3) initiate/progress with the studies on pre-colonial and post-contact archaeological (WP2,3,4) and historical (WP6) packages. Implementation involved setting up a brand-new wet lab for sample preparation for palaeoproteomics and stable isotopes in UAB (PI and Senior Technician). This also involved creation of the project webpage (PI and Senior Technician) and trips to Brazil for sampling of skeletal and ceramic assemblages from archaeological sites from the States of Santa Catarina, Parana, Sao Paulo, Bahia and Rio Grande do Sul (PI, PDRA isotopes). Sampling and inventory of ceramic artefacts, human and faunal skeletal remains was undertaken by the PI, PDRA in Isotopes (Toso, WP2) and the Brazilian partners, and a database was generated (Senior Technician, McGrath). The PI attended and organized a session in the XX meeting of the Society of Brazilian Archaeology (Pelotas, Brazil, Nov 2019). Dietary and environmental studies using mostly biomolecular and osteological analyses of faunal and human remains were performed at UAB on several collections (Senior Technician, PDRA in Isotopes, PhD). Some of these samples were also radiocarbon dated to fill chronological gaps and to refine chronological pictures. Sampling in distinct locations (Espirito Santo, Alagoas, Pernambuco and Bahia) had to be interrupted, as well as WP5 (fieldwork in Brazil proposed for the second half of the 18-month period) for reasons explained in detail in the section 2.3. We also suffered delays in recruiting some staff (PDRAs in History and in Organic Residue Analysis) and in accessing collections. However, in general, most of the tasks proposed for the period were respected and generated important outcomes to achieve the specific objectives (published results in peer-reviewed journals, invitation of team members as speakers in public and scientific events, session organization in conferences). Nevertheless, it is important to emphasize that the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak severely affected all tasks in terms of time, from March 2020 onward. Other actions, not initially contemplated for this period, were taken to mitigate the impacts of COVID-19. This was the case of WP6, which was planned to start slightly later (year 3), but we decided to bring it forward because most of work is performed on digitized resources available on-line.
We made significant progress that were not contemplated during the inception of the project:

Mobilizing science for all: In response to COVID-19 outbreak and restrictions we launched a series of 6 free online webinars entitle “Marine Historical Ecology” with renowned world leaders in the field including John Erlandson, Camilla Speller, Loren McClenachan, Critina Brito, Oliver Craig and XXXXX, David Orton and Canan Chaklilar. We had around 100 registration for each event with attendees from all around the world.

Cross-fertilizing and knowledge exchange: 1) We are now partners of ERC-CoG LICCI (UAB, Spain), which is creating a web-based platform in which any citizen in the world will be able to contribute information on local indicators of climate change impacts. We are working with them for collecting some information of small-scale fisheries perception of climate change. 2) We have been invited to take part of Grupo Pró-Babitonga (Brazil), which is an autonomous multi-stakeholder forum formed by representatives of public and societal sectors and have been endorsed by Brazil’s Federal Action Plan for the Coastal Zone as a regional integrated coastal management policy experiment. We are contributing with historical data on small-scale fisheries in the region.

Influencing policy-makers: we are working with members of the National Institute of Historic and Artistic Heritage in Brazil (Iphan) to adequate their policy for analysing archaeological remains in order to contemplate recent developments of biomolecular archaeology, such as non-destructive analysis.

We took part of the International research workshop with policy-makers and stakeholders in Brasilia (Brazil). This event was hosted by CNPq and promoted by the Conselho Nacional das Fundações de Amparo à Pesquisa (Confap), in partnership with the British Academy and Newton Fund. The workshop involved researchers across all career stages who were interested in an interdisciplinary discussion on issues related to Climate Change, Cities & Infrastructure, and Inequalities, and who wanted to build on their Newton Fund-supported projects to develop further international and interdisciplinary research collaborations. This event provided opportunities for engagement with policymakers, and participants were able to raise the profile of their research and discuss research findings with colleagues across disciplines. This was an opportunity to enhance the visibility of our ERC project TRADITION and the vibrant research environment at ICTA and the Dept. of Prehistory at UAB.

Beyond our aims and specific objectives, overall we are positive that TRADITION will inspire others in Latin America and wound to world to lead independent and joint effort towards mobilizing archaeology and history in socio-ecological studies on small-scale fisheries and beyond.
Fishing in Maranhao, N. Brazil (credits, Andre Colonese)