Surveys commissioned by 16th century Spanish king provide unprecedented ecological snapshot

In the 1570s, when King Philip II of Spain sent emissaries to survey the flora and fauna of villages in central and southern Spain, he wasn’t thinking about ecological networks or extinction. He just wanted to know exactly what he owned. So, he asked at least two people in each village to describe the land, flora, and fauna of their territory to his surveyors. Now, 450 years later, a team of ecologists says the resulting answers to that survey have value as ecological surveys, taken before the word “ecology” entered the lexicon.

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