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Ecology of the collapse of Rapa Nui society.

Journal: Proceedings of the Royal Society B

Published: 2020-06-24

DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2020.0662

Affiliations: 13

Authors: 11

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Research Highlight

Climate cracked Easter Island before conflict

© Mlenny/Getty

© Mlenny/Getty

The collapse of the Rapa Nui (Easter Island) society may have been more closely linked to climate change than conflict.

Possible reasons for the infamous decline of Easter Island’s indigenous people range from brutal conflicts with European invaders to unchecked population growth that exhausted the island’s ecological resources.

A team that included researchers from the Spanish National Research Council determined past human energy consumption on the island from archaeological data. By using human energy consumption as a proxy for population size, they then modelled population trends against changes in vegetation cover and climate since the island was colonized nearly 1,000 years ago.

Their results suggest population decline set in before foreign settlers arrived and was due to droughts putting strain on food production.

Understanding the effects of past climate change on sensitive societies could help such populations better prepare for their own sustainability challenges.

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  1. Proc. Roy. Soc. B 287, 20200662 (2020). doi: 10.1098/rspb.2020.0662
Institutions Share
Institute of Earth Sciences Jaume Almera (ICTJA), CSIC, Spain 0.18
Center of Applied Ecology and Sustainability (CAPES), PUC, Chile 0.14
Instituto de Alta Investigación (IAI), UTA, Chile 0.09
Centre for Ecological Research and Forestry Applications (CREAF), Spain 0.09
Department of Earth and Ocean Dynamics, UB, Spain 0.09
UiO Centre for Ecological and Evolutionary Synthesis (CEES), Norway 0.09
Department of Ecology, PUC, Chile 0.08
Center for Climate and Resilience Research (CR)², Chile 0.05
Instituto de Ciencias Ambientales y Evolutivas (CAEV), UACh, Chile 0.05
InForest Join Research Unit (CSIC-CTFC-CREAF), Spain 0.05
Departamento de Biología Animal, de Biología Vegetal y de Ecología, UAB, Spain 0.05
Centro UC del Desierto de Atacama (CDA), PUC, Chile 0.03
Institute of Ecology and Biodiversity (IEB), University of Chile, Chile 0.03

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