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The dynamics of human-environment interactions in the collapse of the Classic Maya

The dynamics of human-environment interactions in the collapse of the Classic Maya
The dynamics of human-environment interactions in the collapse of the Classic Maya
In this study we investigate the societal development of the Maya in the Southern Lowlands over a span of approximately 1400 years and explore whether societal dynamics linked to the depletion of natural resources can explain the rise and fall of the Classic Maya. We propose a dynamical systems model that accounts for the state of the land, population and workers employed in swidden and intensive agriculture and monument building. Optimisation of model output to he empirical data fixes biometric parameters to values consistent with the literature and requires that a shift from swidden to more intensive agriculture took place at around 550 CE. The latter prediction is consistent with the dating of the beginning of the Late Classical period. Thus, our model offers an explanation of the collapse of the society of the Maya and suggests that the role of droughts may have been overestimated. Consistent with previous work, the collapse can be modelled by a critical transition (supercritical Hopf bifurcation), where the critical parameter is the harvesting rate per capita of intensive agriculture. Furthermore, an extensive sensitivity analysis indicates that the
model and its predictions are robust.
0921-8009
312-324
Roman, Sabin
3d9e299a-cde8-4c5c-91d8-98e3e6c4f119
Palmer, Erica
abc98e79-042b-49cc-9673-89a755f8445a
Brede, Markus
bbd03865-8e0b-4372-b9d7-cd549631f3f7
Roman, Sabin
3d9e299a-cde8-4c5c-91d8-98e3e6c4f119
Palmer, Erica
abc98e79-042b-49cc-9673-89a755f8445a
Brede, Markus
bbd03865-8e0b-4372-b9d7-cd549631f3f7

Roman, Sabin, Palmer, Erica and Brede, Markus (2017) The dynamics of human-environment interactions in the collapse of the Classic Maya. Ecological Economics, 146, 312-324. (doi:10.1016/j.ecolecon.2017.11.007).

Record type: Article

Abstract

In this study we investigate the societal development of the Maya in the Southern Lowlands over a span of approximately 1400 years and explore whether societal dynamics linked to the depletion of natural resources can explain the rise and fall of the Classic Maya. We propose a dynamical systems model that accounts for the state of the land, population and workers employed in swidden and intensive agriculture and monument building. Optimisation of model output to he empirical data fixes biometric parameters to values consistent with the literature and requires that a shift from swidden to more intensive agriculture took place at around 550 CE. The latter prediction is consistent with the dating of the beginning of the Late Classical period. Thus, our model offers an explanation of the collapse of the society of the Maya and suggests that the role of droughts may have been overestimated. Consistent with previous work, the collapse can be modelled by a critical transition (supercritical Hopf bifurcation), where the critical parameter is the harvesting rate per capita of intensive agriculture. Furthermore, an extensive sensitivity analysis indicates that the
model and its predictions are robust.

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maya paper - Accepted Manuscript
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More information

Accepted/In Press date: 11 November 2017
e-pub ahead of print date: 22 November 2017
Additional Information: accepted in Ecological Economics

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 415600
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/415600
ISSN: 0921-8009
PURE UUID: e04fd5e3-e981-4c67-a846-d8c654add1a0

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Date deposited: 16 Nov 2017 17:30
Last modified: 07 Oct 2020 05:03

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