Human activity resulting from the Spanish conquest had a profound effect on coastal change in northwestern Peru, according to researchers at the University of Maine’s Climate Change Institute.
Daniel Belknap, a professor of Earth sciences, and Daniel Sandweiss, a professor of anthropology and Quaternary and climate studies, researched how demographic and economic effects of the Spanish conquest of the Inca Empire altered landscape development on the Chira beach-ridge plain in northern coastal Peru.
The findings were documented in an article, “Effect of the Spanish Conquest on coastal change in Northwestern Peru,” which was published the week of May 19 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
The researchers determined that human activity, specifically the disposal of mollusk shells, was essential to preserving the sandy beach ridges along the Chira River in Peru.
“This type of interdisciplinary research is a hallmark of the Climate Change Institute at UMaine and contributes to better understanding of the impacts of humans on coastal systems,” Belknap says.
The study illustrates the value of comparing historic, archaeological, climatic and geological data and demonstrates that human activity alters landscapes, as well as cultures. The research also provides evidence of a previously unrecognized consequence of the Spanish conquest, according to the article.
“We show that humans had a clear effect on a coastal system that now appears to be an uninhabited, natural landscape, yet is the product of millennia of anthropogenic modification of the environment,” the report states.
The Chira River carries primarily sand at its inlet. The ridges, or narrow dunes that run for miles parallel to the shoreline, are built entirely of sand. Most ridges with sharp crests are covered by shells that are associated with fire-cracked rocks, fire pits and other artifacts that suggest the shells were deposited by humans. The shells act as armor, protecting the ridges from erosion caused by onshore winds, according to the researchers.
For more than 30 years, archaeologists and geologists have been studying beach ridges in northern Peru to better understand maritime economies, the influence of El Nino cycles and the effects of sea-level change and sediment supply on coastal systems, the article states.
Previous research has shown disposed shells are instrumental in holding sand ridges in place in the face of persistent winds. Belknap and Sandweiss, who conducted a field examination of the ridges in 1997, hypothesized that only the shell-armored ridges are stabilized and would maintain their shape and prevent winds from blowing sand inland.
The studied region was the first area in Peru to experience the direct effect of European presence, according to the researchers. In 1532, Francisco Pizarro and his conquistadors moved to the Chira Valley, where they founded the first Spanish settlement in what is now Peru.
The Spanish conquest caused extreme depopulation of the Chira coast within a century, which drastically changed the economy and devastated traditional coastal shellfish harvesting. North of the Chira River, the changes affected the evolution of beach ridges, the article states.
The researchers found the last well-preserved ridge corresponds in age with the Spanish conquest of the region, and they correlate the devastation of the coastal population after European contact with a distinctly different geomorphology.
Population growth into the 19th and 20th centuries no longer resulted in shell waste on the coastal ridges because of mollusk exportation to interior markets. For the past 500 years, demographic decline and economic change have eliminated shell heaps on the coast, causing the newly formed dune ridges to dry up and eventually blow inland.
The researchers suggest there may have been more ridges than the nine documented dunes in the Chira beach-ridge plain, but for cultural and climatic reasons, there was no shell waste to stabilize them and some of the ridges may be composites of several events.
Contact: Elyse Kahl, 207.581.3747
The Bangor Daily News advanced a May 20–21 conference co-hosted by the University of Maine School of Policy and International Affairs and the Maine Army National Guard to explore challenges and emerging opportunities in the Arctic. The free conference, titled “Leadership in the High North: A Political, Military, Economic and Environmental Symposium of the Arctic Opening,” will be held at the Maine Army National Guard Regional Training Institute in Bangor. Speakers, including UMaine professor and Climate Change Institute director Paul Mayewski, will address global, national and state issues and implications related to diminished sea ice in the Arctic, including the changing environment, trade, geopolitics and policy.
Research being conducted through the University of Maine’s Sustainability Solutions Initiative (SSI) was highlighted in the the National Climate Assessment report recently released by President Barack Obama, which found global warming is directly affecting life in Maine and other New England states.
The research by the SSI team is focused on the effects of increasingly intense and frequent storms striking Maine and New England, causing millions of dollars in damage and threatening fragile ecosystems. Shaleen Jain, an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering, and Esperanza Stancioff, an extension associate professor, are leading the team that is helping Maine communities better understand and prepare for the potential local impacts of climate change.
The report explains how the research team “mapped decisions by town managers in Maine to sources of climate information, engineering design, mandated requirements, and calendars that identified the complex, multi-jurisdictional challenges of widespread adaptation for even such seemingly simple actions as using larger culverts to carry water from major storms.”
Research by the UMaine team is highlighted in the Northeast section of the report under “Key Message: Planning and Adaptation.”
The National Climate Assessment summarizes the impacts of climate change on the United States. More than 300 experts guided by a 60-member Federal Advisory Committee produced the report, which was reviewed by the public and experts, including federal agencies and a panel of the National Academy of Sciences, according to the report.
The UMaine research project is funded by the Sustainability Solutions Initiative, a program of the Senator George J. Mitchell Center, which is supported by National Science Foundation award EPS-0904155 to Maine EPSCoR at the University of Maine and a grant from NOAA’s National Sea Grant Coastal Communities Climate Adaptation Initiative (CCCAI).
More about the SSI project is online.
The groundbreaking research of Kurt Rademaker, a University of Maine visiting assistant professor in anthropology and alumnus (Ph.D. 2012), is highlighted in the News & Analysis section of the May 9 journal Science. The story, “New Sites Bring the Earliest Americans Out of the Shadows,” focuses on the archaeologist’s new evidence that Paleoindians “spread throughout North and South America earlier than long believed — and even camped high in the Andes Mountains.” Rademaker, who recently received the Tubingen Ice Age Research Prize, presented his findings on the earliest high-altitude human occupation in the New World at the Society for American Archaeology. “What we have is these ancient people emerging everywhere,” Rademaker said in Science.
Rademaker’s research also was the focus of a poem written by Katherine Allen, a researcher in geochemistry and paleoclimate at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. The poem and Science article were featured in a post on Allen’s blog, which is hosted on the website “State of the Planet: Blogs from the Earth Institute.”
Robert Kates, Presidential Professor of Sustainability Science at the University of Maine’s Climate Change Institute, was interviewed for a Portland Press Herald article about the newly released National Climate Assessment report, which found global warming is already affecting life in Maine and other New England states. Kates, who is a coauthor of the report’s northeastern states section, told the Press Herald many people see beach erosion as the most pressing threat for Maine’s coastal communities, while officials are often more concerned about aging or inadequate culverts to deal with the increasing number of severe storms. “The culvert problem is real,” said Kates, who has worked with UMaine’s Sustainability Solutions Initiative to help communities develop long-term culvert plans.
Free Press Advances SPIA Conference on Implications of Diminishing Arctic Sea Ice
The Free Press reported on a May 20–21 conference co-hosted by the University of Maine School of Policy and International Affairs and the Maine Army National Guard to explore challenges and emerging opportunities in the Arctic. The free conference, titled “Leadership in the High North: A Political, Military, Economic and Environmental Symposium of the Arctic Opening,” will be held at the Maine Army National Guard Regional Training Institute in Bangor. Speakers will address global, national and state issues and implications related to diminished sea ice in the Arctic, including the changing environment, trade, geopolitics and policy.
The University of Maine School of Policy and International Affairs and the Maine Army National Guard will co-host a conference May 20–21 to explore challenges and emerging opportunities in the Arctic.
The free conference, titled “Leadership in the High North: A Political, Military, Economic and Environmental Symposium of the Arctic Opening,” will be held from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. both days at the Maine Army National Guard Regional Training Institute in Bangor. Speakers will address global, national and state issues and implications related to diminished sea ice in the Arctic, including the changing environment, trade, geopolitics and policy.
Scheduled speakers include: Gen. Charles Jacoby, commander of North American Aerospace Defense Command and United States Northern Command; Rear Admiral Jonathan White, oceanographer and navigator of the Navy, director of Task Force Climate Change; Paul A. Mayewski, director of the UMaine Climate Change Institute; Major-General Christopher Coates, deputy commander, Canadian Joint Operations Command, National Defence and Canadian Armed Forces; Philippe Hebert, director of Policy Development for Canadian Department of National Defence; and John Henshaw, executive director of Maine Port Authority.
Officials from the U.S. Army Mountain Warfare School will share experiences and display cold-weather operations equipment.
For more information, call Lt. Col. Darryl Lyon, 207.430.5888. The symposium is free but seating is limited and tickets are required to attend. For tickets, contact Peter Fandel, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Phys.org published an article on research conducted by a University of Maine team that found stratification of the North Atlantic Ocean contributed to summer warming and glacial melting in Scotland during the period recognized for abrupt cooling 12,900 to 11,600 years ago in the Northern Hemisphere. Prevailing scientific understanding has been that glaciers advanced in the Northern Hemisphere throughout most of the Younger Dryas Stadial (YDS) — a 1,300-year period of dramatic cooling. However, the researchers determined carbon-dated bog sediment indicates the 9,500-square-kilometer ice cap over Rannoch Moor in Scotland retreated at least 500 years before the end of the YDS.
A University of Maine research team says stratification of the North Atlantic Ocean contributed to summer warming and glacial melting in Scotland during the period recognized for abrupt cooling 12,900 to 11,600 years ago in the Northern Hemisphere.
Prevailing scientific understanding has been that glaciers advanced in the Northern Hemisphere throughout most of the Younger Dryas Stadial (YDS) — a 1,300-year period of dramatic cooling.
But carbon-dated bog sediment indicates the 9,500-square-kilometer ice cap over Rannoch Moor in Scotland retreated at least 500 years before the end of the YDS, says Gordon Bromley, a postdoctoral associate with UMaine’s Climate Change Institute (CCI).
“Our new record, showing warming summers during what traditionally was believed to have been an intensely cold period, adds an exciting new layer of complexity to our understanding of abrupt events and highlights the fact that there is much yet to learn about how our climate can behave,” Bromley says.
“This is an issue that is becoming ever more pressing in the face of global warming, since we really need to know what Earth’s climate system is capable of. But first we have to understand the full nature of abrupt climate events, how they are manifest ‘on the ground.’ And so we were compelled to investigate the terrestrial record of the Younger Dryas, which really is the poster child for abrupt climate change.”
Glaciers, says Bromley, respond to sea surface temperatures and Scotland is immediately downwind of the North Atlantic Ocean.
“Scotland was the natural choice as it lies within the North Atlantic Ocean — widely believed to be a driver of climatic upheaval — and thus would give us a robust idea of what really transpired during that critical period,” he says.
What the team found was that amplified seasonality driven by greatly expanding sea ice resulted in severe winters and warm summers.
While sea ice formation prevented ocean to atmosphere heat transfer during winters, melting of sea ice during summers created a stratified warmer freshwater cap on the ocean surface, he says. The increased summer sea surface temperature and downwind air temperature melted the glaciers.
Bromley says this research highlights the still-incomplete understanding of abrupt climate changes throughout Earth’s history.
“Ever since the existence of abrupt climate change was first recognized in ice-core and marine records, we’ve been wrestling with the problem of why these tumultuous events occur, and how,” he says.
Kurt Rademaker, Brenda Hall, Sean Birkel and Harold W. Borns, all from UMaine’s Climate Change Institute and School of Earth and Climate Sciences, are part of the research team. So too is Aaron Putnam, previously from CCI and now with Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University/Earth Institute. Joerg Schaefer and Gisela Winckler are also with Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and Thomas Lowell is with the University of Cincinnati.
The team’s research paper, Younger Dryas deglaciation of Scotland driven by warming summers, was published April 14 on the “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences” website.
Contact: Beth Staples, 207.581.3777
Third-year marine sciences major Ian Jones of Canton, Conn., is studying how ocean acidification impacts lobster larvae, an important resource for the Maine economy.
Jones works with American lobsters raised at UMaine’s Aquaculture Research Center (ARC). The lobster larvae were raised last summer at various pH levels, replicating natural environments and the impact of ocean acidification. Jones weighed and photographed approximately 700 lobster larvae to monitor their growth in these different environments. The hypothesis: slower growth and more irregular development occur at lower pH. This creates adaptation problems for lobsters dealing with increased environmental CO2 levels.
“We will certainly see greater ocean acidification in the future as an effect of climate change. As atmospheric levels of CO2 continue to increase from human input, so do the CO2 levels of the upper ocean,” says Jones.
Along with lobster larvae, Jones also monitored seahorses in Tim Bowden’s lab. The seahorses, which were dealing with a mycobacterial infection, were in the care of Jones while an antibiotic treatment was created. He also raised juvenile seahorses last year. Through this experience, Jones learned about seahorse aquaculture, proper feeding protocols, tank chemistry and more.
“Not much is known about seahorse aquaculture relative to raising other fish, so although information on raising newborns was limited, it was a fun challenge figuring out our own system that worked.”
This fall, Jones will travel to the Darling Marine Center on the Damariscotta River, where he and other UMaine students will further the hands-on work they do in the classroom through the Semester By the Sea program.
Jones plans to attend graduate school to study sensory biology and/or the effect of climate change on marine animals.
Why is your lobster research important?
Research on American lobster growth at lowered pH is incredibly important first, because there has been little climate change study on this particular species and second, any slowing or other adverse effects on lobster growth could have serious impacts on the health of the lobster fishery, which Maine, of course, greatly depends on. Delayed lobster larvae development means it will take longer for lobsters to get to market size, and predation risk may increase as well, causing fewer individuals to grow into adults and lowering the overall abundance of adult lobsters. Changes in lobster abundance can in turn upset ecosystem balance by changing the abundance of organisms that depend on lobster as prey and organisms lobsters prey on. These trophic cascades have the power to reduce the presence of many species in addition to just the lobster, consequently reducing biodiversity.
Are you excited about heading to the Darling Marine Center in the fall?
I am really excited to be able to SCUBA dive in the area on the weekends; there is a dive locker on campus. I’m also excited for many of the courses offered this fall, such as the scientific diving course and the marine invertebrate biology course. I look forward to the seminar class, which teaches students how to tackle job interviews and graduate school applications for pursuing a career post graduation. Generally, I look forward to interacting with the marine environment on a near daily basis as I learn more about it and gain skills for marine research.
Why did you choose UMaine?
My primary reason for choosing UMaine was their excellent marine science program, which was more attractive than those at other colleges due to its emphasis on hands-on experience, such as through their Semester by the Sea program, expert faculty and it covers fundamentals of marine biology, chemistry and physics, not just the area you choose to concentrate in. Also driving me to UMaine were the strong nondiscriminatory policies and minority services on campus, making me confident that I can be myself at UMaine and face minimal to no prejudice, especially from faculty and administrators.
Have you worked closely with a mentor, professor or role model who has made your UMaine experience better, if so how?
Working with Tim Bowden has greatly improved my experience here, and the opportunities he’s granted me to assist with seahorse aquaculture and lobster larvae research have not only been very enjoyable but have helped define my research interests and add to my qualifications for future research experience. Additionally, his constructive feedback on my performance in his lab has allowed me to improve as a researcher.
What difference has UMaine made in your life, helping you reach your goals?
My professors at UMaine have made a major impact on what it means to have a career in science and beyond. They share advice on the mentality, skills and process necessary toward being successful in particular research fields. Also, the abundance of research facilities here, such as the Aquaculture Research Center, has allowed me to build a lot of hands-on experience that I can apply to future positions in marine biological research.
What advice do you have for incoming students?
I advise students to get involved with at least a couple student organizations that suit their interests. There’s a club for almost anything you could think of, from fencing to SCUBA diving to various political, academic and religious and social groups. Also I recommend science students look for work in a faculty member’s lab as soon as possible, even if it’s just volunteer work. You don’t need to know what your interests are yet, but any research and lab experience gained early can really help you in the long run. Just ask around.
What is your favorite place on campus?
My favorite place is the Littlefield Garden on the north end of campus. The garden is especially nice to study in, or to just hang out and have a picnic at — given warm weather of course.
Have you had an experience at UMaine that has shaped the way you see the world?
Unrelated to marine science, I took the Intro to LGBT studies course offered by the Women’s, Sexuality and Gender Studies department, which vastly increased my understanding of the complexity of the LGBT community. I knew a fair amount about LGBT culture and identities going into the course but I did not realize how much I didn’t know until taking the class. For example, I didn’t know that there is opposition to same-sex marriage within members of the LGBT community and that historically there has been plenty of conflict of interest between feminist and lesbian organizations, as well as lesbian and gay people who have spearheaded “LGBT” movements that often leave the B (bisexual) and T (transgender) out of the equation. I now view the LGBT community differently than before, recognizing that people won’t always get along or share common goals just because they all belong to a minority. I also better understand the importance of full inclusiveness in LGBT organizations, due the diversity and intersectionalities with race, class, etc., of LGBT people.