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      Coupled Socio-Environmental Changes Triggered Indigenous Aymara Depopulation of the Semiarid Andes of Tarapacá-Chile during the Late 19th-20th Centuries

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          Socio-economic and environmental changes are well known causes of demographic collapse of agrarian cultures. The collapse of human societies is a complex phenomenon where historical and cultural dimensions play a key role, and they may interact with the environmental context. However, the importance of the interaction between socio-economic and climatic factors in explaining possible breakdowns in Native American societies has been poorly explored. The aim of this study is to test the role of socio-economic causes and rainfall variability in the collapse suffered by the Aymara people of the semiarid Andean region of Tarapacá during the period 1820–1970. Our motivation is to demonstrate that simple population dynamic models can be helpful in understanding the causes and relative importance of population changes in Andean agro-pastoral societies in responses to socio-environmental variability. Simple logistic models that combine the effects of external socio-economic causes and past rainfall variability (inferred from Gross Domestic Product [GDP] and tree-rings, respectively) were quite accurate in predicting the sustained population decline of the Aymara people. Our results suggest that the depopulation in the semiarid Tarapacá province was caused by the interaction among external socio-economic pressures given by the economic growth of the lowlands and demands for labor coupled with a persistent decline in rainfall. This study constitutes an example of how applied ecological knowledge, in particular the application of the logistic equation and theories pertaining to nonlinear population dynamics and exogenous perturbations, can be used to better understand major demographic changes in human societies.

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          Most cited references 15

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          Climate and the collapse of Maya civilization.

           G H Haug (2003)
          In the anoxic Cariaco Basin of the southern Caribbean, the bulk titanium content of undisturbed sediment reflects variations in riverine input and the hydrological cycle over northern tropical South America. A seasonally resolved record of titanium shows that the collapse of Maya civilization in the Terminal Classic Period occurred during an extended regional dry period, punctuated by more intense multiyear droughts centered at approximately 810, 860, and 910 A.D. These new data suggest that a century-scale decline in rainfall put a general strain on resources in the region, which was then exacerbated by abrupt drought events, contributing to the social stresses that led to the Maya demise.
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            Global climate change, war, and population decline in recent human history.

            Although scientists have warned of possible social perils resulting from climate change, the impacts of long-term climate change on social unrest and population collapse have not been quantitatively investigated. In this study, high-resolution paleo-climatic data have been used to explore at a macroscale the effects of climate change on the outbreak of war and population decline in the preindustrial era. We show that long-term fluctuations of war frequency and population changes followed the cycles of temperature change. Further analyses show that cooling impeded agricultural production, which brought about a series of serious social problems, including price inflation, then successively war outbreak, famine, and population decline successively. The findings suggest that worldwide and synchronistic war-peace, population, and price cycles in recent centuries have been driven mainly by long-term climate change. The findings also imply that social mechanisms that might mitigate the impact of climate change were not significantly effective during the study period. Climate change may thus have played a more important role and imposed a wider ranging effect on human civilization than has so far been suggested. Findings of this research may lend an additional dimension to the classic concepts of Malthusianism and Darwinism.
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              Development and disintegration of Maya political systems in response to climate change.

              The role of climate change in the development and demise of Classic Maya civilization (300 to 1000 C.E.) remains controversial because of the absence of well-dated climate and archaeological sequences. We present a precisely dated subannual climate record for the past 2000 years from Yok Balum Cave, Belize. From comparison of this record with historical events compiled from well-dated stone monuments, we propose that anomalously high rainfall favored unprecedented population expansion and the proliferation of political centers between 440 and 660 C.E. This was followed by a drying trend between 660 and 1000 C.E. that triggered the balkanization of polities, increased warfare, and the asynchronous disintegration of polities, followed by population collapse in the context of an extended drought between 1020 and 1100 C.E.

                Author and article information

                Role: Editor
                PLoS One
                PLoS ONE
                PLoS ONE
                Public Library of Science (San Francisco, CA USA )
                25 August 2016
                : 11
                : 8
                [1 ]Departamento de Ecología, Facultad de Ciencias Biológicas, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Santiago, Chile
                [2 ]Center of Applied Ecology and Sustainability (CAPES), Santiago, Chile
                [3 ]Laboratorio Internacional de Cambio Global (CSIC-PUC), Santiago, Chile
                [4 ]Laboratorio de Dendrocronología y Cambio Global, Instituto de Conservación, Biodiversidad y Territorio, Universidad Austral de Chile, Valdivia, Chile
                [5 ]Center for Climate and Resilience Research (CR)2, Santiago, Chile
                [6 ]Laboratorio de Arqueología y Paleoambiente, Instituto de Alta de Investigación, Universidad de Tarapacá, Arica, Chile
                [7 ]Centro del Desierto de Atacama, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Santiago, Chile
                [8 ]Institute of Ecology & Biodiversity (IEB), Santiago, Chile
                University of Waterloo, CANADA
                Author notes

                Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

                • Conceptualization: ML CL DAC MCS.

                • Data curation: ML DAC MCS.

                • Formal analysis: ML DAC.

                • Investigation: ML CL MCS DAC.

                • Methodology: ML.

                • Validation: CL DAC MCS.

                • Visualization: ML MCS DAC.

                • Writing – original draft: ML DAC MCS CL.

                • Writing – review & editing: ML.

                © 2016 Lima et al

                This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

                Page count
                Figures: 4, Tables: 1, Pages: 12
                Funded by: Fondo Basal-CONICYT grant FB-0002 (2014
                Award ID: FB -0002/2014
                Award Recipient :
                Funded by: Institute of Ecology and Biodiversity
                Award ID: P02-005/PFB-23
                Award Recipient :
                Funded by: Proyecto ECOS
                Award ID: C13H02
                Award Recipient :
                Funded by: CONICYT Programa de Investigación Asociativa (PIA), Anillo,
                Award ID: SOC1405
                Award Recipient :
                Funded by: CONICYT Programa de Investigación Asociativa (PIA), Anillo,
                Award ID: SOC1405
                Award Recipient :
                Funded by: FONDAP-CONICYT
                Award ID: 15110009
                Award Recipient :
                ML acknowledges financial support from Fondo Basal-CONICYT grant FB-0002 (2014). CL acknowledges support from the Institute of Ecology & Biodiversity (grants ICM P02-005 and PFB-23). MCS acknowledges support from Universidad de Tarapacá and Proyecto ECOS C13H02. CL and MCS also acknowledge financial support from CONICYT Programa de Investigación Asociativa (PIA), Anillo, Grant No. SOC1405. DC acknowledges financial support from FONDAP-CONICYT 15110009 and FONDECYT 1161381.
                Research Article
                Social Sciences
                Economic Analysis
                Physical Sciences
                Chemical Compounds
                People and places
                Geographical locations
                South America
                Chile (Country)
                Biology and Life Sciences
                Population Biology
                Population Dynamics
                Earth Sciences
                Atmospheric Science
                People and Places
                Biology and Life Sciences
                Population Biology
                Population Metrics
                Population Size
                Social Sciences
                Social Systems
                Custom metadata
                Population data from 1650-1970 AD of the local Aymara people present in the Tarapacá province were extracted from Van Kessel book and Chilean National Census Data (Instituto Nacional de Estadísticas; INE). We used the annual data on per capita Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Chile for the period 1820-1970 extracted from the Maddison Project data base (1. Bolt J, van Zanden JL (2013). The First Update of the Maddison Project; Re-Estimating Growth Before 1820. Maddison Project Working Paper 4.).



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