pSESYNTH project

 The whole is not the sum of the parts: building a synthesis database of past human-environmental systems in the Global South (pSESYNTH) 

pSESYNTH is a single-year project (2022-2023) funded by INQUA (International Union for Quanternary Research). The project is supported by HABCOM (Human and Biosphere commission).

The project is a community-driven effort resulting from the virtual PASES 2020 (joint PAGES-INQUA early-career workshop), and is led by Xavier Benito (IRTA, Spain), Charuta Kulkarni (UK) and Ignacio Jara (CEAZA, Chile). The team project is composed of more than 20 researchers from different parts of the world acting as regional coordinators of the Global South. pSESYNTH has the overarching objective to build the first ever multi-theme database of past socio-environmental systems from the Global South. This effort would shed light into the multivariate relationships among climate, environment, and cultural evolution for testing multiple hypotheses of widespread cultural “stress” and human resilience to climate change. Our mission is to consolidate research collaborations among who should be the next-generation leaders in the field.

Background and objectives

It is crucial to establish regional, multi-disciplinary teams that test the hypothesis whether cultural “stress” of ecosystems is widespread in the Global South if we are to provide datasets for the Global South as analogs to understand the present and project future trends.  Linking environmental proxies to societal processes (e.g., growth rates, migrations, subsistence strategies) from different regions in the Global South will provide necessary baselines to explore questions related to natural and cultural resilience to climatic stressors over time including:

  • What insights do archaeological, paleoecological, and paleoclimatic datasets provide about the processes that conferred human societies resilience to environmental change?
  • To which spatial and temporal scales were human-environmental systems coupled or uncoupled to climate fluctuations?
  • To what extent climatic oscillations made some past socio-environmental systems vulnerable to cross tipping points?

Work plan of activities

At the short term (January through June 2022), pSESYNTH will explore what processes, handed in by project participants, allow us to infer past drivers using a multiproxy approach, organized into three themes: paleoecological (e.g., pollen, charcoal, aquatic indicators), paleoclimatic (e.g., speleothems, lake sediments, tree-rings), and archaeological (e.g., radiocarbon dates, burial sites, material culture). Participants will explore how to link these three sources with special emphasis on trajectories of change of the human component: when, where and how past societies evolved. At the long-term (July 2022 through June 2023), pSESYNTH will capitalize on existing single- and multi-themed databases (e.g., Neotoma, NOAA, LinkedEarth, CARD, ArchaeoGlobe, HYDE 3.2) to ensure accessibility for data standards, usability, and comparability with the newly generated multi-thematic database. Furthermore, it will focus on software integration (relation al database) linked to Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to provide users with an interactive web interface, allowing them to pinpoint what location and time period contain available datasets, thereby helping identify gaps for future studies and avenues for collaborations.

Registration form


NameInstituteResearch fieldArea of study
Olumide OnafesoOlabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye, NigeriaGeography, Earth Systems ModellingNigeria/West Africa
Amila RatnayakeUva Wellassa UniversityGeology, paleoclimatology, geochemistrySri Lanka/South Asia/Equator 
Tahereh Ensafi MoghaddamResearch Institute of Forests and Rangelands, Agricultural Research Education and Extension Organization (AREEO)Physical Geography (Climatology)Iran (The Islamic Republic of), a country in Western Asia
Aliyu Adamu IsaAhmadu Bello University, Zaria-NigeriaBio-archaeology
Qian HuangJohannes Gutenberg University of MainzMarine biology and paleoecologyIcelandic Sea/North Sea/Europe
Vincenza FerraraDepartment of Archaeology and Ancient History (Uppsala University) and 
Department of Human Geography (Stockholm University)
Historical Ecology, spatial analysisSouthern Europe and Mediterranean belt
Trisha SpanbauerUniversity of Toledo (USA)Paleolimnology, molecular ecology, phycologyLaurentian and African Great Lakes, high elevation lakes in South America and China
Alejandra Rodríguez AbaunzaUniversidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM)Geochemistry, Paleoecology, PaleolimnologyMéxico, Colombia
Magdalena SchmidKiel UniversityArchaeology, radiocarbon dating (interest in paleoclimate)New Zealand, Southern Levant, Iceland, Scandinavia 
Helen MackayDurham UniversityOrganic Geochemistry, palaeoenvironmentsNorth America, NW Europe, Pacific Islands 
Sefa SahinNorthumbria UniversityPalaeoseismology, Palaeoenvironment
Deepak JhaIndian Institute of Science Education and Research, Kolkata, IndiaStable isotopes, charcoal, archeology, palaeoclimateIndia, South Asia
Paula Rodríguez- ZorroUniversidad del Norte, ColombiaPalynology, charcoalBrazil, Colombia, Amazonia, South America
Raquel CassinoUniversidade Federal de Ouro Preto, BrazilPalynology, charcoalBrazil, Amazonia, South America
Estelle RazanatsoaUniversity of Cape Town, South Africa
Geoffrey JohnsonUniversity of OregonNorth America
Charuta KulkarniIndependent Researcher; currently located in the UKLandscape (Palaeo-) ecology, fires, Science-policy interfaceIndia,South Asia
Ignacio JaraCenter for Advanced Studies in Arid Zones (Chile)Palynology, charcoalSouth America
Xavier BenitoMarine and Continental Waters Programme (IRTA) SpainAquatic paleoecology, biogeographyNeotropics, Mediterrarean deltas