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The Social Consequences of Climate Change in the Central Mesa Verde Region

  • Dylan M. Schwindt (a1), R. Kyle Bocinsky (a2), Scott G. Ortman (a3), Donna M. Glowacki (a4), Mark D. Varien (a1) and Timothy A. Kohler (a2)...
Abstract
Abstract

The consequences of climate change vary over space and time. Effective studies of human responses to climatically induced environmental change must therefore sample the environmental diversity experienced by specific societies. We reconstruct population histories from A.D. 600 to 1280 in six environmentally distinct portions of the central Mesa Verde region in southwestern Colorado, relating these to climate-driven changes in agricultural potential. In all but one subregion, increases in maize-niche size led to increases in population size. Maize-niche size is also positively correlated with regional estimates of birth rates. High birth rates continued to accompany high population levels even as productive conditions declined in the A.D. 1200s. We reconstruct prominent imbalances between the maize-niche size and population densities in two subregions from A.D. 1140 to 1180 and from A.D. 1225 to 1260. We propose that human responses in those subregions, beginning by the mid-A.D. 1200s, contributed to violence and social collapse across the entire society. Our findings are relevant to discussions of how climate change will affect contemporary societies.

Las consecuencias del cambio climático varían a través del tiempo y espacio. Por lo tanto, estudios efectivos de las respuestas humanas al cambio ambiental climáticamente inducido tienen que muestrear la diversidad ambiental experimentada por sociedades específicas. Nosotros reconstruimos historias poblacionales desde 600 hasta 1.200 d.C. en seis porciones ambientalmente distintas de la región central de Mesa Verde, en el suroeste de Colorado, relacionándolas con cambios climáticamente inducidos en el potencial agrícola. En todas menos una de las subregiones, aumentos en la extensión del nicho del maíz llevaron a incrementos en el tamaño poblacional. La extensión del nichodel maíz también está positivamente correlacionada con estimociones regionales de tasas de natalidad. Las altas tasas de natalidad continuaron acompañando altos niveles poblacionales aún cuando las condiciones productivas declinaron en el 1.200 d.C. Nosotros reconstruimos desbalances destacados entre el tamaño del nicho del maíz y las densidades poblacionales en dos subregiones desde 1.140 a 1.180 años d.C. y desde 1.225 a 1.260 años d.C. Proponemos que, comenzando a mediados del 1.200 d.C., las respuestas humanas en estas subregiones contribuyeron a la violencia y al colapso social a través de toda la sociedad. Nuestros hallazgos son relevantes para las discusiones acerca de cómo el cambio climático afectará a las sociedades contemporáneas.

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Corresponding author
(tako@wsu.edu)
References
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