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      Climate change and the population collapse during the “Great Famine” in pre-industrial Europe

      1 , 2

      Ecology and Evolution

      John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

      Climate change, ecology, human dynamics, population collapse

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          Abstract

          Population dynamics, economy, and human demography started with Malthus, the idea that population growth is limited by resources and “positive checks” occur when population growth overshoots the available resources. In fact, historical evidence indicates that long-term climate changes have destabilized civilizations and caused population collapses via food shortages, diseases, and wars. One of the worst population collapses of human societies occurred during the early fourteenth century in northern Europe; the “Great Famine” was the consequence of the dramatic effects of climate deterioration on human population growth. Thus, part of my motivation was to demonstrate that simple theoretical-based models can be helpful in understanding the causes of population change in preindustrial societies. Here, the results suggest that a logistic model with temperature as a “lateral” perturbation effect is the key element for explaining the population collapse exhibited by the European population during the “Great Famine”.

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          Most cited references 37

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          Stock and Recruitment

           W. Ricker (1954)
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            Analytical Population Dynamics

             T. Royama (1992)
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              2500 years of European climate variability and human susceptibility.

              Climate variations influenced the agricultural productivity, health risk, and conflict level of preindustrial societies. Discrimination between environmental and anthropogenic impacts on past civilizations, however, remains difficult because of the paucity of high-resolution paleoclimatic evidence. We present tree ring-based reconstructions of central European summer precipitation and temperature variability over the past 2500 years. Recent warming is unprecedented, but modern hydroclimatic variations may have at times been exceeded in magnitude and duration. Wet and warm summers occurred during periods of Roman and medieval prosperity. Increased climate variability from ~250 to 600 C.E. coincided with the demise of the western Roman Empire and the turmoil of the Migration Period. Such historical data may provide a basis for counteracting the recent political and fiscal reluctance to mitigate projected climate change.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Ecol Evol
                Ecol Evol
                ece3
                Ecology and Evolution
                John Wiley & Sons Ltd.
                2045-7758
                2045-7758
                February 2014
                02 January 2014
                : 4
                : 3
                : 284-291
                Affiliations
                [1 ]Department of Ecology, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile Casilla 114-D, Santiago, CP 6513677, Chile
                [2 ]Laboratorio Internacional de Cambio Global, LINCG (CSIC-PUC) Santiago, CP 6513677, Chile
                Author notes
                Correspondence, Mauricio Lima, Department of Ecology, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Casilla 114-D, Santiago CP 6513677, Chile., Tel: +56-2-23542638; Fax: +56-2-23542615;, E-mail: mlima@ 123456bio.puc.cl
                Article
                10.1002/ece3.936
                3925430
                © 2014 The Authors. Ecology and Evolution published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

                This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

                Categories
                Original Research

                Evolutionary Biology

                human dynamics, population collapse, climate change, ecology

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