An Examination of Long-Term Environmental-Social Dynamics in the Balkans

Kulkarni, Charuta and Boger, Rebecca. A (2015). An Examination of Long-Term Environmental-Social Dynamics in the Balkans. In: 2015 American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, San Francisco, United States of America, 14-18 Dec 2015, San Francisco, AGU, PA23B-2197.



This study examines the interactions of environmental and social dynamics in Central Balkans over the past millennium, a period that experienced three major climatic phases (Medieval Climate Anomaly, Little Ice Age, and the warm 20th century). Meanwhile, the same period witnessed a complex human history with the emergence-rise-decline of the Ottoman Empire and subsequent socio-political events (e.g. wars, famines, migrations). Environmental datasets for the analysis include biological proxies (pollen, spores, and charcoal), geochemical signals through X-ray fluorescence (XRF), and a detailed chronology based on AMS 14C dating of two western and central Serbian lakes while social datasets include historic population data, land use, settlement patterns, and critical historic events derived from a review of the literature and local archives. Among the environmental datasets, indigenous tree and herbaceous pollen from these Central Balkans records demonstrate fluctuations in woodland-grassland dynamics whereas potassium and titanium counts obtained through XRF act as a proxy for surface erosion and clastic input into the lakes. Microscopic charcoal, cereal pollen and subordinate anthropogenic pollen (e.g. cultivated fruits and vegetables) are used to distinguish strong human impact over the landscape. These key anthropogenic indicators create a more thorough social component of the analysis in association with the social datasets. After reconstructing the individual time series for each environmental and social dataset, the two Central Balkan records are correlated in order to identify the environmental and social homogeneity and heterogeneity patterns occurring at shorter and longer timescales during the period. Results provide insights on how a region responds to social and environmental stressors and our approach demonstrates ways to integrate natural and social science system research.

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