What is Easter Island like todayHow is Easter Island today?
Climate, Overpopulation & Environment - The Rapa Nui Discourse
Easter Island's "Ecozid" and the breakdown of civilisation, or the mother tongue version of the film " Rapa Nui " (1994) and the US biological scientist Jared Diamond's novel "Collapse - How Societies Choose to Fail or Survive" (2005) became very famous. According to the suggested scenarios, which are shown in both the movie and the books, the populations become too large and a severe overuse of the island's finite nature reserves begins.
In particular timber was needed for the building of the mai - large sculptures embodying the ancestors and becoming a sign of might and prestigiousness on the small island. However, after the complete clearance of the large palms, the ground was quickly destroyed by the periodic strong rainfall.
The main basis of this scene is the detection of unfamiliar palm-like poplars in sedimentary form during an archaeological exploration before 1961. Potatoes were found in various swamp nuclei, as well as roots in fossilized soil and subfossilized walnuts found in the cave show that Easter Island once helped large palms.
Nowadays, the Rapa Nui countryside is covered by grassland, covering 90% of the island; the remainder are shrub and eucalyptus woods, which contain almost no indigenous forestlife. Clearly, Easter Island societies, which ignored the degradation of their environments and put icons of environmental degradation above good reason and sustainable development, were eventually condemned to die out by their own lust - a story that reminded us that our planet is like Easter Island - nothing more than a point in the expanse of outer-space and that, in the end, we will not be able to get out of an area that has to feed 7 billion human beings today.
1786 the "La Pérouse "xpedition ( "La Pérouse", 1785-1788) went to Easter Island, the painter Duché de Vancy made the first card and the first sketches of the natives (somehow idealized) and the sculptures of the mai ( "Pictures in open space"). But contrary to what the "based on truth facts" Hollywood film suggests, this dark tale and the disastrous Rapa Nui scene were and are controversial.
There is a limit to the number of nuclei investigated to rebuild the palaeoecology of the island and most of them have been analysed with a very rough dissolution, so that there are many questions as to how quickly and when Rapid Nui has completely abandoned its original wood. The latest palynologic research shows that the island suffered a cool and arid weather until the end of the last glacier peak of about 12.
On the basis of this restricted information, two major assumptions have been suggested to account for the island's huge biodiversity and flora losses. A series of assumptions, summarised in the volume "Collapse", subordinates the deforestation to what is directly and indirectly man. Man has cut down the whole wood and chased the native wildlife to the verge of dying out.
According to a revised variant of the Humane Impact myth, settlers were not primarily responsible for the breakdown of the ecosystem, but rather for the invasion of plants or animals that they took to the island, which in strong competition with indigenous endemic organisms led to its swift demise and disappearance. The second series of assumptions deals with the possible effects of past climatic changes, such as persistent drought, on an already sensitive and unstable island world and population.
Simplistic story of the ecological phenomenon on the island of Rafa Nui. Remarkable sediments and thus recordings of the past of Rapa Nui can be obtained from the marshes and seas in the three major crater areas of the volcano island, as large sediments contain rather thick and unimpaired sediments.
From 1200, when we counted the seeds of Pollens in the Ranu Raraku lake sediment, a substitution of the palm-dominated by grass-dominated accumulations of pollens in the sediment records became apparent as an alleged consequence of the almost total clearance of the thickly wooded area. It is unfortunate that the reading of polygon charts can be very difficult.
Column graphs of pastures show a relatively different level of growth of pollen, which does not necessarily represent the total number of palms in the area around the study area. Different types of pollination (a type pollinating by the winds produces much more seeds of pollen than a type that can depend on more reliable sources such as animals) can cause very different amounts of pollen to be produced.
In order to recreate the real blanket of flora from an accumulation of pollens, we need to know the calibrating factors of the investigated plants. However, it is not clear which trees have grown the rapa nui pill. Pollinomorphological resemblances to common types can be found on Pritchardia (the Pritchard palm), Cocos (the Kokospalme ) and Jubaea Chileensis (the Weinpalme) typical examples of the population.
A number of writers believe that Easter Island was ruled by a wood of holly trees. However, the found scarce macro residues do not fit all of the above types. Imperfect fossilized walnuts bear most resemblance to the walnuts of Juania australis, an indigenous type of tropical plant that can only be found on the Juan Fernández Islands today.
Under the assumption that all the remnants - the rootstocks, vines, seeds of polenta and walnuts - came from only one single tree, it was also assumed that Rapa Nui's rose tree was an indigenous - and now dead - species: Paschalococo dispersed, with doubtful systemic relationship to newer types of palms and unfamiliar "pollen transformation factor".
Although the exact knowledge of the transformation factor is important, the preserved moor and swamp-pollen-signal is strongly dependent on the position of the saplings. A few logs in the immediate vicinity of the bank can give strong indications that many logs or even an whole wood is at a great deal of furthermore .
It is not only the flora but also the ecology that causes difficulties in the study of the past of Easter Island. The nuclei investigated all show signs of degradation and a significant hole in the sedimentary structure up to the year 800, perhaps as a consequence of a severe dry spell - unfortunately precisely at the point in the process when the first anthropogenic influence is posited.
Therefore, the sediments and the pollen record can only approximately indicate the age of the changes in flora that occur in this period and also not the precise magnitude and cause of such changes. Sixteen million tree-lined plants, which cover almost 70% of the area, were once planted on Rapa Nui. Have all these pallets really been used by people and for what use?
Building mai or as a spring for potable vegetable juice? However, these figures are in stark contrasts with the relatively thin coke strata and pieces of timber that have been found all over the island so far. A third scene is also possible, however, taking into account the archeological remnants of Rapa Nui. There is little indication in the archeological records of an increase in conflict or force on the island in reaction to overcrowding; rock artifacts, considered spearheaded, were easy cutting and scrapping instruments, and there are no fortification.
There were no particular indications of conflict or violent behaviour in any of the hundred bones examined, and there is no evidence of this. Have the former residents destroyed the island's thick sub-tropical forests and caused their own doom? Since the beginning of colonisation, was Rapid Nui a destitute place, which was only affected by indigenous woodland, and was it a form of aridity, perhaps in conjunction with anthropogenic influences, which eventually led to the disappearance of the already scarce plants?
It seems certain that the logging of Rapa Nui was a complicated one. Thousand years on the formerly inhabited island and the anthropogenic present in the last thousand years would have had an additional impact on the world. But man lived together with the woods for hundreds of years, for example through the use of planting holes protected by palms in the wood.
Even the first writings do not necessarily describe the natives as despairing overthrowers and the island as post-apocalyptic wastelands. Rapanui substituted the shrubbery for the tree and avoided ground degradation, they cultivated abundant crops using million of stones as rock mowers. Many of the damages and erosions that can be observed on the island today were caused after the colonisation of Europe, in particular by the advent of large animals, which caused soils to erode in the twentieth world.
But the Easter Island lessons remain important; even though the destruction of the eco-system was not solely the human guilt or apocalypse and the depleted world still supported a community - it was a community without many opportunities for the time being. This shows that a company is dependent on the enviroment - so it is ultimately only in our own interest to look after it.
I am David Bressan and I am a free-lance geographer working mainly in the crystal clear rock of the Austrian Alps and the southern alpine Paleozoic and Mesozoic deck sedimentary in the Eastern Alps.