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.
See next page for project participants