However, he is most renowned as a proponent and foremost expert of historical ecology (Balée 1998). Balée has proposed four interdependent postulates, which set historical ecology apart from other more traditional research programs. Basically summarized, these postulates are:Humans have affected nearly all environments on Earth;Humans do not have an innate propensity to decrease biotic and landscape diversity or to increase it;Various types of societies impact their landscapes in dissimilar ways;Human interactions with landscapes can be comprehended holistically.
Historical ecologists study the interaction between the human and natural worlds and the subsequent human responses to environmental influences. Humans often respond to these environmental stimuli by altering their landscapes, but maintaining their culture and practices. Due to the constant human adaptation of the environment, it is increasingly difficult, if not impossible, to behold an environment anywhere on the planet that is untouched. These human-created modifications are known as human-mediated disturbances, and are studied to learn of humans’ role in the history of the land.The second and third postulates emphasize the fact that humanity is not homogeneous, and therefore, our impacts will not be either. Humans have been known to both increase and decrease the biodiversity of landscapes throughout time. Broadcast fires, for example, can often create niches for new species in the landscape, while simple deforestation can drastically decrease the biodiversity. Human impacts on the landscape are as varied as the languages, political systems, and societies present in the world. Finally, people and the landscape can be studied holistically because the landscape incorporates both people and the environment. Since humans and the environment are so dependent on one another, it is more efficient and accurate to study them together as a single entity. The landscape is visual evidence of the interaction of culture and the environment.
Currently, he is undertaking ethnographic fieldwork studying the historical ecology and legal activities of the Sirionó people in eastern Bolivia.