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
Pontifical Catholic University of Chile (PUC), Chile 0.24
Institute of Earth Sciences Jaume Almera (ICTJA), CSIC, Spain 0.18
University of Tarapacá (UTA), Chile 0.09
Centre for Ecological Research and Forestry Applications (CREAF), Spain 0.09
University of Barcelona (UB), Spain 0.09
University of Oslo (UiO), Norway 0.09
Center for Climate and Resilience Research (CR)², Chile 0.05
Austral University of Chile (UACh), Chile 0.05
InForest Join Research Unit (CSIC-CTFC-CREAF), Spain 0.05
Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB), Spain 0.05
University of Chile, Chile 0.03