Using the quantitative techniques of phytosociology and ordination, we test the hypothesis that human agency has created the flowering plant species composition of the forests of Cayo, Belize. Specifically, we test the degree to which Yucatec Maya domestic forest gardens and pastures share assemblages of native species with three nearby samples of uninhabited forest, in other words whether the eastern Petén is a “feral forest.” As have previous studies, our data show that the species assemblages of both pastures and gardens share a high affinity with the forests that surround them. This implies that one is likely derived from the other, but does not prove causality or directionality. NMS ordination of native woody plants in the three sectors shows a far more robust affinity (clustering in the same region in two-dimensional space) between the compositions of the forests and pastures, as opposed to forest and gardens. We conclude that feral pastures – clearly post-contact phenomena – should be considered, in addition to domestic gardens, to be antecedents to the contemporary Maya forest.
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