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Article: Climate change and large-scale human population collapses in the pre-industrial era

TitleClimate change and large-scale human population collapses in the pre-industrial era
Authors
KeywordsClimate change
Land carrying capacity
Malthusian checks
Northern hemisphere
Population collapses
Issue Date2011
PublisherBlackwell Publishing Ltd. The Journal's web site is located at http://www.blackwellpublishing.com/journals/GEB
Citation
Global Ecology And Biogeography, 2011, v. 20 n. 4, p. 520-531 How to Cite?
AbstractAim It has long been assumed that deteriorating climate (cooling and warming above the norm) could shrink the carrying capacity of agrarian lands, depriving the human population of sufficient food. Population collapses (i.e. negative population growth) follow. However, this human-ecological relationship has rarely been verified scientifically, and evidence of warming-caused disaster has never been found. This research sought to explore quantitatively the temporal pattern, spatial pattern and triggers of population collapses in relation to climate change at the global scale over 1100 years. Location Various countries/regions in the Northern Hemisphere (NH) during the pre-industrial era. Methods We performed time-series analysis to examine the association between temperature change and country-wide/region-wide population collapses in different climatic zones. All of the known population collapse incidents in the NH in the period ce 800-1900 were included in our data analysis. Results Nearly 90% of population collapses in various NH countries/regions occurred during periods of climate deterioration characterized by shrinking carrying capacity of the land. In addition, we found that cooling dampened the human ecosystem and brought about 80% of the collapses in warmer humid, cooler humid and dry zones, while warming adversely affected the ecosystems in dry and tropical humid zones. All of the population collapses and growth declines in periods of warm climate occurred in dry and tropical humid zones. Malthusian checks (famines, wars and epidemics) were the dominant triggers of population collapses, which peaked dramatically when climate deteriorated. Main conclusions Global demographic catastrophes and most population collapse incidents occurred in periods with great climate change, owing to overpopulation caused by diminished carrying capacity of the land and the resultant outbreak of Malthusian checks. Impacts of cooling or warming on land carrying capacity varied geographically, as a result of the diversified ecosystems in different parts of the Earth. The observed climate-population synchrony challenges Malthusian theory and demonstrates that it is not population growth alone but climate-induced subsistence shortage and population growth working synergistically, that cause large-scale human population collapses on the long-term scale. © 2010 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.
Persistent Identifierhttp://hdl.handle.net/10722/157921
ISSN
2015 Impact Factor: 5.84
2015 SCImago Journal Rankings: 4.650
ISI Accession Number ID
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Research Grants Council of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government705508
Key Laboratory of Environmental Geochemistry, Institute of Geochemistry, Chinese Academy of Sciences
Funding Information:

This research was supported by the Research Grants Council of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government (705508), HKU Seed Funding for Basic Research for the project entitled 'Long-term Climate Change and the Seventeenth-Century General Crisis in Europe', HKU Research Output Prize (2008) and Key Laboratory of Environmental Geochemistry, Institute of Geochemistry, Chinese Academy of Sciences. Last but not least, a special thanks to David J. Currie, Jose Alexandre Diniz-Filho and the four referees for their valuable comments on the manuscript.

 

DC FieldValueLanguage
dc.contributor.authorZhang, DDen_US
dc.contributor.authorLee, HFen_US
dc.contributor.authorWang, Cen_US
dc.contributor.authorLi, Ben_US
dc.contributor.authorZhang, Jen_US
dc.contributor.authorPei, Qen_US
dc.contributor.authorChen, Jen_US
dc.date.accessioned2012-08-08T08:56:19Z-
dc.date.available2012-08-08T08:56:19Z-
dc.date.issued2011en_US
dc.identifier.citationGlobal Ecology And Biogeography, 2011, v. 20 n. 4, p. 520-531en_US
dc.identifier.issn1466-822Xen_US
dc.identifier.urihttp://hdl.handle.net/10722/157921-
dc.description.abstractAim It has long been assumed that deteriorating climate (cooling and warming above the norm) could shrink the carrying capacity of agrarian lands, depriving the human population of sufficient food. Population collapses (i.e. negative population growth) follow. However, this human-ecological relationship has rarely been verified scientifically, and evidence of warming-caused disaster has never been found. This research sought to explore quantitatively the temporal pattern, spatial pattern and triggers of population collapses in relation to climate change at the global scale over 1100 years. Location Various countries/regions in the Northern Hemisphere (NH) during the pre-industrial era. Methods We performed time-series analysis to examine the association between temperature change and country-wide/region-wide population collapses in different climatic zones. All of the known population collapse incidents in the NH in the period ce 800-1900 were included in our data analysis. Results Nearly 90% of population collapses in various NH countries/regions occurred during periods of climate deterioration characterized by shrinking carrying capacity of the land. In addition, we found that cooling dampened the human ecosystem and brought about 80% of the collapses in warmer humid, cooler humid and dry zones, while warming adversely affected the ecosystems in dry and tropical humid zones. All of the population collapses and growth declines in periods of warm climate occurred in dry and tropical humid zones. Malthusian checks (famines, wars and epidemics) were the dominant triggers of population collapses, which peaked dramatically when climate deteriorated. Main conclusions Global demographic catastrophes and most population collapse incidents occurred in periods with great climate change, owing to overpopulation caused by diminished carrying capacity of the land and the resultant outbreak of Malthusian checks. Impacts of cooling or warming on land carrying capacity varied geographically, as a result of the diversified ecosystems in different parts of the Earth. The observed climate-population synchrony challenges Malthusian theory and demonstrates that it is not population growth alone but climate-induced subsistence shortage and population growth working synergistically, that cause large-scale human population collapses on the long-term scale. © 2010 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.en_US
dc.languageengen_US
dc.publisherBlackwell Publishing Ltd. The Journal's web site is located at http://www.blackwellpublishing.com/journals/GEBen_US
dc.relation.ispartofGlobal Ecology and Biogeographyen_US
dc.subjectClimate change-
dc.subjectLand carrying capacity-
dc.subjectMalthusian checks-
dc.subjectNorthern hemisphere-
dc.subjectPopulation collapses-
dc.titleClimate change and large-scale human population collapses in the pre-industrial eraen_US
dc.typeArticleen_US
dc.description.naturelink_to_subscribed_fulltexten_US
dc.identifier.doi10.1111/j.1466-8238.2010.00625.xen_US
dc.identifier.scopuseid_2-s2.0-79958133104en_US
dc.identifier.hkuros197220-
dc.identifier.volume20en_US
dc.identifier.issue4en_US
dc.identifier.spage520en_US
dc.identifier.epage531en_US
dc.identifier.eissn1466-8238-
dc.identifier.isiWOS:000291391500002-
dc.publisher.placeUnited Kingdomen_US
dc.identifier.citeulike9412777-

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