Adapting to and thriving in nature has long been a struggle for agricultural civilizations and societies. Which is more powerful, mankind or nature? How vulnerable is human society to nature’s complexity and harshness? Led by Fenggui LIU
and Qiong CHEN
, a team of scientists has attempted to answer this question by looking at the interaction of cropland changes, climate change, and human activity in the Yellow River-Huangshui River Valley in northeastern Tibetan Plateau over the past 300 years.
The research analyzed the relationship between the environment changes and social development in the Yellow River-Huangshui River Valley (YHV), since the link is more pronounced in farming-pastoral transitional zone.
Reviewing the development of the agriculture of the YHV region over the past 300 years, we can see that the amount of cropland has been subject to the climate change, such as fluctuations in temperature and precipitation as well as frequent natural hazards.
In addition, the coping strategies adopted by the government and/or residents of the region also shaped changes in the amount of cropland over the years.
The impact on the acreage of cropland due to human society was most prominent in the 19th century. During that period, a significant decrease in cropland in the YHV region was documented, coinciding with frequent natural disasters and a global cooling trend.
“To adjust to environment changes, top-down and grassroots cropping strategies were adopted,” said Prof LIU. For example, when the cropland area decreased, land reclamation policies were rolled out by the government, aiming to encourage immigrants and military farming.
During years with little precipitation, the authorities then constructed water conservancy infrastructure to increase agricultural productivity.
In response to climate changes, a number of local Tibetans correspondingly tried to adjust the production proportion of agriculture and animal husbandry.
“In conclusion, agricultural civilizations and societies were not as sensitive to climate change as we previously believed, as shown by this study,” said Prof. CHEN, a researcher at the Academy of Plateau Science and Sustainability, “in other words, the human society is increasingly resilient to climate changes as related technology develops and our understanding of the nature deepens. ”
Editor's note: The study was supported by STEP and Pan-TPE, both TPE related science projects