Non-linear landscape and cultural response to sea-level rise

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  • Robert Barnett
    University of Exeter
  • Dan J. Charman
    University of Exeter
  • Charles Johns
    Heritage Consultant
  • Sophie Ward
  • Andrew Bevan
    University College London
  • Sarah L. Bradley
    University of Sheffield
  • Kevin Cambridge
    Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Maritime Archaeology Society
  • Ralph M. Fyfe
    University of Plymouth
  • W. Roland Gehrels
    University of York
  • Jackie Hatton
    University of Exeter
  • Nicole S. Khan
    University of Hong Kong
  • Peter Marshall
    Historic England
  • S. Yoshi Maezumi
    University of Amsterdam
  • Steve Mills
    Cardiff University
  • Jacqui Mulville
    Cardiff University
  • Marta Perez
    University of London
  • Helen M. Roberts
    Aberystwyth University
  • James D. Scourse
    University of Exeter
  • Francis Shepherd
    Cornwall County Council
  • Todd Stevens
    Colossus, Pilot’s Retreat
Rising sea levels have been associated with human migration and behavioral shifts throughout prehistory, often with an emphasis on landscape submergence and consequent societal collapse. However, the assumption that future sea-level rise will drive similar adaptive responses is overly simplistic. While the change from land to sea represents a dramatic and permanent shift for preexisting human populations, the process of change is driven by a complex set of physical and cultural processes with long transitional phases of landscape and socioeconomic change. Here, we use reconstructions of prehistoric sea-level rise, paleogeographies, terrestrial landscape change, and human population dynamics to show how the gradual inundation of an island archipelago resulted in decidedly nonlinear landscape and cultural responses to rising sea levels. Interpretation of past and future responses to sea-level change requires a better understanding of local physical and societal contexts to assess plausible human response patterns in the future.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbereabb6376
JournalScience Advances
Issue number45
Publication statusPublished - 4 Nov 2020

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