The week of sampling and discussions makes my mind spin on many topics. There always seem to be interesting researchers passing through, doing research or sometimes leading tours. We only have had this one project here, yet many of the people we meet have spent much of their research career working on Rapa Nui. This leads to very interesting discussions.
|A view of one of the large areas where population potentially thrived on Rapa Nui. Could it have exceeded agricultural carry capacity?|
That's plan A. Our plan B has always been to reconstruct the nutrient budgets of the agricultural systems. Then we can determine if they could support a large population through climate extremes, particularly drought, even as nutrients declined from peak pre-deforestation levels. This allows us to better understand the carrying capacity of the island.
Did the people there exceed the limits of the their environment? Understanding how environment places limits on society and economies has become a major focus of environmental science recently, with serious arguments about how multiple limits can be calculated. Can Rapa Nui's past help us shed light on this debate? Are there boundaries or limits that must not be crossed?
This trip has helped us understand the details need to calculate how much food can be produced in an area like the one shown in the photo above. This photo shows the view looking west from Poike. The best beach for landing ocean going canoes is off the farm to the right, and the statue building area at Rano Raraku is off to the left. It looks rocky, and it is. But maybe those rocks protected the soils and plants, and indicate occupied structures, much more than we would have ever thought!