Learning from the Ancient Maya: Exploring the Impact of Drought on Population Dynamics

Kuil, L., Carr, G., Prskawetz, A., Salinas, J.L., Viglione, A., & Blöschl, G. (2019). Learning from the Ancient Maya: Exploring the Impact of Drought on Population Dynamics. Ecological Economics 157 1-16. 10.1016/j.ecolecon.2018.10.018.

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Understanding the relationship between drought and population dynamics is increasingly important, particularly in areas where high population growth corresponds with increasing drought risk due to climate change. We examine the relationship between drought events and population dynamics using a stylized hydrology-demography model that has been calibrated to simulate plausible feedbacks for the population decline of the Ancient Maya of Central America. We employ a deterministic and a stochastic approach.

We find that the impact of drought increases abruptly once a critical threshold of population density is exceeded. The critical threshold depends on the intensity and duration of the drought as well as on the level of technology adopted by society, the extent of markets and societal behavior. The simulations show that, for a society to be as food secure post-climate change as they are pre-climate change, strategies would have to be adopted to not only increase the region's capacity to provide sufficient resources for its growing population, but also to buffer the impact of a drier climate on productivity. This study provides suggestions on how technological, societal and economic development can modify the system to mitigate the impacts of climate change on the human population.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Population-resource model; Socio-hydrology; Virtual water; Drought; Vulnerability; Climate change
Research Programs: World Population (POP)
Depositing User: Luke Kirwan
Date Deposited: 12 Nov 2018 13:01
Last Modified: 27 Aug 2021 17:31
URI: https://pure.iiasa.ac.at/15572

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