The colonisation of the Americas lead to a reduction of the indigenous people of nearly 90 per cent.
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22.02.2019

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Scientists maintain that the colonisation of the Americas in the late fifteenth century caused the indigenous population to shrink so drastically that this had a measurable impact on the Earth’s climate.

Around 60 million people were living in the Americas when Christopher Columbus set foot on the continent – allegedly the first European to do so. Only a hundred years later, just five or six million of the original inhabitants were left, with 90 per cent of them having fallen victim to epidemics of imported diseases such as measles and many having died through warfare and famine. Vast expanses of abandoned agricultural land reverted to forest or savannah. In their paper “Earth system impacts of the European arrival and Great Dying in the Americas after 1492”, scientists at University College London/UK claim that this process drew enough carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere to substantially cool the planet, resulting in the “Little Ice Age” of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

“The Great Dying of the Indigenous Peoples of the Americas led to the abandonment of enough cleared land that the resulting terrestrial carbon uptake had a detectable impact on both atmospheric CO2 and global surface air temperatures,” lead author Alexander Koch and his colleagues write in their paper, which was recently published in the Quaternary Science Reviews.

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