MESSAGE FROM THE MAYA: ECOLOGICAL DESTRUCTION, CLIMATE CHANGE, AND CULTURAL COLLAPSE - PowerPoint PPT Presentation

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MESSAGE FROM THE MAYA: ECOLOGICAL DESTRUCTION, CLIMATE CHANGE, AND CULTURAL COLLAPSE

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Title: MESSAGE FROM THE MAYA: ECOLOGICAL DESTRUCTION, CLIMATE CHANGE, AND CULTURAL COLLAPSE


1
MESSAGE FROM THE MAYA ECOLOGICAL DESTRUCTION,
CLIMATE CHANGE, AND CULTURAL COLLAPSE
  • Tom Sever
  • William Saturno
  • Dan Irwin

2
  • Plowed fields have replaced forests,
    domesticated animals have dispersed wildlife.
    Trees are plowed, mountains smoothed, and swamps
    drained. There are as many cities as in former
    years there were dwellingsEverywhere there are
    buildings, everywhere people, everywhere
    communities. Proof of this crowding is the
    density of human beings. We weigh upon the
    world its resources hardly suffice to support
    us. As our needs grow larger, so do our protests
    that already nature does not sustain us.

Tertullian 200 AD Carthage, North Africa
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Easter Island
Mesopotamia
Anasazi
4
Ancient Maya Cities
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The Greatest Demographic Disaster in Human History
  • Over 100 Explanations for the Maya Collapse
    including
  • Hurricanes
  • Overpopulation
  • Disease
  • Deforestation/Soil Erosion
  • Peasant Revolt
  • Warfare
  • Climate Change

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Surviving BooksDresden CodexMadrid CodexParis
CodexGrolier Codex
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Motul de San Jose
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Tikal, Guatemala
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Ah Bolon Tun
Ceibal
849 AD
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El
El Mirador
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Utilizing the Unique View from Space
SERVIR An Environmental Monitoring and Decision
Support System for Mesoamerica
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1986
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1995
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2003
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Climatic Impact of Tropical Lowland Deforestation
on Nearby Montane Cloud Forests
R.O. Lawton, U.S. Nair, R.A. Pielke Sr., R.M.
Welch
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For hundreds of years the Maya depended on the
predictable rain cycle.
When they filled all of their reservoirs they
had an 18-month supply of water.
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Rio Holmul
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Karlen
Hodell, Curtis, and Brenner
Peterson and Haug
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Key Issues in Central American Climate and
Climate Change
Drs. Bob Oglesby and Tom Sever NASA/Marshall
Space Flight Center
1. What is the current understanding of climate
variability for Central America and what are the
associated large-scale physical mechanism? Can we
explain phenomena such as the 2001 drought?
    2. How significant to Central American
climate change is deforestation / land use change
in comparison to natural climate variability?
What role do they play in floods and droughts?
    3. What are possible or likely future
scenarios of climate change and deforestation?
    4. How important was climate change,
including that induced by human land use changes,
in the rise and fall of the Mayan civilization?
28
Mesoamerican Deforestation Scenarios
Implications for Wet and Dry Seasons (MM5)
January (dry season) Temperature (left) warms
everywhere but only by 1-2deg C Rainfall (right)
- little impact as its the dry season!
July (wet season) Temperature (left) warms
everywhere, but now as much as 2-5 deg
C. Rainfall (right) shows a decrease of
20-30 over much of the Mayan region
29
CCSM3
This plot shows rainfall over the Maya lowland
region for the wet season (June-September) for
100 years of present-day conditions as
simulated by a global climate model. Many
periods of 3-4 successive dry years can be seen,
but few prolonged droughts.
This plot shows rainfall for the wet season for a
model simulation of the period 1870-1999. Note
much more prolonged periods of drought, e.g.,
1952-1981, during which 24 of 30 years have
below average rain.
(Community Climate System Model)
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Bajo Research 40-60 of the Land Surface
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Bajo Islands- 3 Meter Radar Data
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Petén Vegetation Classes
The three most prevalent land classes in the San
Bartolo region are highlighted in yellow
IKONOS imagery can distinguish between the
groups Palm Bajo, Scrub Bajo, and Upland
Vegetation
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Bajo Classification
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  • The amount of land needed per nuclear family
  • will vary according to several factors, such as
  • the size of the nuclear family
  • the integration of the household into the market
    economy
  • (selling surplus maize for profit)
  • - the feeding of maize to domestic animals, such
    as pigs
  • - relative yields in the area
  • - risk-aversion strategies of the farmer

An area of 1.5 ha of farmed land per nuclear
family accords well with the observed data from
Yucatan for a typical subsistence-oriented
household.
39
Agricultural Landscape of a 120 Year Fallow
System
  • Per household
  • - 2 fields in use
  • 20 short-fallowed fields
  • 20 long-fallowed fields

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Agricultural Landscape of a 17 Year Fallow System
Per household - 2 fields in use - 14
short-fallowed fields
41
Planning experimental maize fields using IKONOS
data
Palm
High Forest
Scrub
(20m x 20m plots)
IKONOS vegetation signature
42
High Forest (Montaña)
Note the differences in the health and maturity
of the maize plants grown in these
different environments.
Halfway to harvest July 2005
Transitional Scrub Bajo (Tintal)
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How is our research in remote sensing,
archaeology, and agriculture applicable to
ecological forecasting?
Our research aims to address
  • - Archaeology and historical sources provide us
    with specifics on the
  • importance of maize in the diet of the Maya,
    and how they farmed their
  • lands.
  • The agricultural preferences of the ancient Maya
    for certain land classes
  • resulted in a deforested landscape with a
    specific pattern, leaving as relic
  • the environments we see today.
  • - Remote sensing allows us to differentiate
    between microenvironments and
  • begin to model the ancient Maya agricultural
    landscape.
  • The dynamic relationship between population
    size, agricultural practice,
  • and land productivity may have affected local
    climate and rainfall around
  • areas of settlement and thus contributed to
    population decline.
  • Lessons learned from past land-use successes and
    failures can be applied
  • to contemporary population growth concerns and
    ecological degradation
  • issues in Central America.

44
Deforestation during the Maya period changed the
nature of bajos, creating different and less
productive agricultural landscapes.
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The greatest human-induced environmental
transformation in the history of the
Pre-Columbian New World. (Dunning 2003).
THE BAJOS
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December 2003
Dr. Bill Saturno
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Oasis Island and The Region Northeast of San
Bartolo
  • Sites verified with Sever and Irwin 2004

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Reconstruction by Heather Hurst
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Calakmul
New Site
San Bartolo
Uaxactun
Tikal
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  • 1200 years later we can still see the effects of
    human activity upon a landscape that we consider
    pristine.
  • However, 85-95 of the landscape is a human
    artifact that we can see in the remote sensing
    data.

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Angkor
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1992
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2000
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