How Deforestation Caused Easter Islandís Society to Collapse
2012-06-08 0:00

By Lisa Hossler | EnvironmentalGraffiti.com


When the Polynesians first settled Easter Island as late as 1200 C.E., it was a sub-tropical piece of land covered with millions of palm trees. Five hundred years later, when the Dutch explorer Jacob Roggeveen came upon the island, there were no trees over 10 feet tall. The landscape was instead dominated by tall stone heads, known as Moai. Scattered across the island, the largest of these were up to 65 feet tall and weighed around 270 tons. Yet the island people the European arrivals found were emaciated and lacked an organized society. How could these people have constructed and transported such large objects?

The first setters on Easter Island found an island full of nesting seabirds and land birds. The soil, although low in nutrients, was good for growing the yams, sweet potatoes and other crops the people had brought with them. But it was the trees that were perhaps the most valuable resource for their society. The trees supplied fruit for the birds Ė both of which the humans ate Ė plus bark, used as a material for their clothing, and thatch for their roofs. The people also used the trees for building canoes and harpoons, which in turn helped them to hunt porpoises, their main source of food. Whatís more, the trees supplied log rollers, sleds or levers, and rope made from fibers, all of which the islanders used to move and erect the hundreds of Moai heads for which Easter Island is now famous.

As well as bringing crops to cultivate, the early settlers developed systems of government and religion on Easter Island. They thrived for several centuries, yet their need for trees outpaced the ability of the forest to renew itself (with rats eating the treesí seeds another possible contributing factor to the deforestation). Without the large palm trees, the islanders were unable to build their canoes and so eventually lost their main source of food. This forced them to focus their diet more on mollusks and birds, the latter of which soon also disappeared. With the land birds extinct and migratory bird numbers severely reduced, gone were the treesí means of dispersing pollen and seeds.

[...]


Read the full article at: environmentalgraffiti.com




Related Articles
Easter Island archaeology project digs up islandís bodies
Easter Island Heads: Body excavation continues
The mystery of Easter Island endures amid debate


Latest News from our Front Page

"Too many white people" in Pittsburgh says government official
2015-07-31 2:14
According to Abby Wilson, the deputy director of the Department of Health’s Bureau of Public Policy and Community Relations in Allegheny County, there are too many White people in Pittsburgh. She left Pittsburgh to work in South Africa and then study in the Netherlands, but now that she’s back, she wants to change it. “My two main gripes (about Pittsburgh) are: too ...
Judge blocks group from releasing more Planned Parenthood videos
2015-07-31 2:35
The pro-life group behind a series of undercover Planned Parenthood videos accused the bioservice firm StemExpress late Wednesday of trying to ‚Äúcover up this illegal baby parts trade‚ÄĚ after the company obtained a court order blocking the release of footage. The Los Angeles Superior Court issued a temporary injunction Tuesday stopping the Center for Medical Progress from releasing any video showing ...
US Fish & Wildlife Service Investigating Killing Of Cecil The Lion
2015-07-31 2:18
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that the agency is investigating the killing of Cecil the Lion, saying it will ‚Äúgo where facts lead.‚ÄĚ The agency made the announcement via Twitter Thursday. Also Thursday, the Eden Prairie Police Department said that, while they will be stepping up neighborhood monitoring, they will not be providing personal protection for the dentist who killed ...
Dispute over bounced check caused brutal Hollywood shotgun killing: Cops
2015-07-31 2:40
Carrie Melvin, an aspiring Hollywood production assistant, was strolling with her boyfriend not far from Sunset Boulevard on the evening of July 5 when someone murdered her with a shotgun. Police have now arrested a suspect, Ezeoma Obioha, 31, and say his motivation was likely a dispute over a bounced check worth just a few hundred dollars. A Los Angeles ...
California Drought Could Wipe Cities Off Map If Their Water Runs Out
2015-07-31 2:28
The epicenter of California’s drought crisis is in the Central Valley, where there are growing fears the drought could wipe entire towns off of the map. Wells are going dry, jobs are harder to come by and families are already moving, either to different states or even Mexico in search of work. Before visiting Tulare County, a place where wells have gone ...
More News »