Frequent disturbances enhanced the resilience of past human populations

Bibliographic Collection: 
Publication Type: Journal Article
Authors: Riris, Philip; Silva, Fabio; Crema, Enrico; Palmisano, Alessio; Robinson, Erick; Siegel, Peter E.; French, Jennifer C.; Jørgensen, Erlend Kirkeng; Maezumi, Shira Yoshi; Solheim, Steinar; Bates, Jennifer; Davies, Benjamin; Oh, Yongje; Ren, Xiaolin
Year of Publication: 2024
Journal: Nature
Date Published: 2024/05/01
Publication Language: eng
ISBN Number: 1476-4687

The record of past human adaptations provides crucial lessons for guiding responses to crises in the future1–3. To date, there have been no systematic global comparisons of humans’ ability to absorb and recover from disturbances through time4,5. Here we synthesized resilience across a broad sample of prehistoric population time–frequency data, spanning 30,000 years of human history. Cross-sectional and longitudinal analyses of population decline show that frequent disturbances enhance a population’s capacity to resist and recover from later downturns. Land-use patterns are important mediators of the strength of this positive association: farming and herding societies are more vulnerable but also more resilient overall. The results show that important trade-offs exist when adopting new or alternative land-use strategies.

Short Title: Nature