Global warming is causing significant changes in rainfall, water availability, and agricultural productivity across tropical South America, increasing poverty and leading to migration out of rural areas. Enhanced adaptation strategies to alleviate the impact of climate change are urgently needed. Pre-Columbian societies across the continent responded to periods of abrupt climate change over the last two millennia with a range of strategies that are relevant to issues today (e.g., terracing, irrigation canals). Archaeological and palaeoclimate records suggest relationships between agricultural systems, societal structures, and resilience to climate change events. However, the datasets over tropical South America on which this understanding is derived are sparse. Over recent years the number of archaeological records over tropical South America has increased significantly. These demonstrate widespread complex societies and large populations prior to European colonisation. The number of palaeoclimate records has also increased, but remains thinly and unevenly spread over the continent, making it challenging to constrain the timings and the spatial patterns that likely impacted past societies. This project addresses the important questions of: what were the likely spatial and temporal patterns of climate change over pre-Columbian tropical South America? Do past climate events correlate with palaeoenvironmental change and societal transformations of culture and/or technology? What mechanisms driving climate change are most relevant to societal impacts? The project will use multiple methodologies to address these questions.
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