Paper No. 124-2
Presentation Time: 2:05 PM
ENVIRONMENTAL CONTROLS ON SOCIETAL CHANGE OR SOCIETAL CONTROLS ON ENVIRONMENTAL CHANGE? USING HISTORICAL ARCHIVES AND SEDIMENTARY DATA TO INTERPRET 2700 YEARS OF ENVIRONMENTAL HISTORY IN CENTRAL ITALY (Invited Presentation)
Abrupt climate change in the past is thought to have disrupted societies by accelerating environmental degradation, potentially leading to cultural collapse. Linking environmental controls directly to societal disruption is challenging because socioeconomic factors also impact the environment. Combining paleoenvironmental, historical, and archaeological methods provides for a more secure basis for interpreting past impacts of climate on society. We present pollen, non-pollen palynomorph, geochemical, paleomagnetic and sedimentary data from a high-resolution 2700 yr lake sediment core from central Italy and compare these data with local historical documents and archeological surveys to reconstruct a record of environmental change in relation to socioeconomic history and climatic fluctuations. We document cases in which environmental change is linked to local land management practices in the absence of climatic change, as well as examples when climate appears to have been the catalyst for significant environmental change. During the Imperial Roman period, despite a long period of stable, mild climate, and a large urban population in nearby Rome, our site shows only limited evidence for environmental degradation. Warm and mild climate during the Medieval Warm period on the other hand led to widespread deforestation and erosion. The ability of the Romans to utilize imported resources through an extensive trade network may have allowed for preservation of the environment, whereas during Medieval time, the need to rely on local resources led to environmental degradation. Cool wet climate during the Little Ice Age contributed to widespread land abandonment, challenges in draining wetlands, and rapid reforestation. Introduction of new hydrologic technology in 1600 CE allowed for drainage of land and clearing of forest for agriculture despite being within one of the coldest periods of the Little Ice Age.