How Deforestation Caused Easter Island’s Society to Collapse
2012 06 08

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 – both of which the humans ate – 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. What’s 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 trees’ 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 trees’ means of dispersing pollen and seeds.

[...]


Read the full article at: environmentalgraffiti.com




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


Latest News from our Front Page

NATO Exercise in Ukraine Coincided with MH-17 Shoot-down
2014 07 24
Rapid Trident was omitted from the flurry of coverage on the shoot-down MH-17. From the U.S. Army in Europe website: Rapid Trident supports interoperability among Ukraine, the United States, NATO and Partnership for Peace member nations. The exercise helps prepare participants to operate successfully in a joint, multinational, integrated environment with host-nation support from civil and governmental agencies. ...
Warning of ’imminent’ terror attack in Norway
2014 07 24
Norwegians were warned Thursday of the concrete possibility of a terror attack occurring in that country at the hands of people with connections to an extremist group in Syria. A press conference was called in Oslo, Norway on Thursday where an announcement was made of a "possible concrete threat" to national security in that country from terrorists related to an extremist ...
Judge says government can access everything in a Gmail account
2014 07 24
All your emails are belong to us. At least that’s what the latest court order from a judge in New York says. The warrant, granted on June 11, states that the government can access all the content and files contained in a Gmail account. Yes, this is a significant blow to privacy. The subject of this specific search relates to a money laundering ...
Scotland Yard Spied on Grieving Families: secret surveillance after police victim shot seven times in head ’by mistake’
2014 07 24
More terror from the ’anti-terror’ brigade. Undercover police gathered evidence on 18 grieving families By Rob Evans and Vikram Dodd | The Guardian Undercover police officers secretly gathered intelligence over two decades on 18 families fighting to get justice from the police, it was revealed on Thursday. The intelligence covering high-profile campaigns was collected between the mid-1980s and 2005, and affected grieving families ...
Air Algerie AH5017 with 116 onboard goes missing for hours, found crashed in Mali
2014 07 24
An Air Algerie flight carrying 110 passengers and six crew members has reportedly crashed in Mali after having disappeared from radar early on Thursday morning between Burkina Faso and Algeria. A French Ministry of Defense official told Fox News that the two French fighter jets located the wreckage of the plane, which had crashed in Mali. An airport official additionally confirmed ...
More News »