Earth system impacts of the European arrival and Great Dying in the Americas after 1492 thumbnail
Earth system impacts of the European arrival and Great Dying in the Americas after 1492
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We estimate that 55 million indigenous people died following the European conquest of the Americas beginning in 1492. This led to the abandonment and secondary succession of 56 million hectares of land This was a change from the 1400s of 9.9 Pg C (5 ppm CO2). Including feedback processes this contri
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  • We estimate that 55 million indigenous people died following the European conquest of the Americas beginning in 1492. This led to the abandonment and secondary succession of 56 million hectares of land
  • This was a change from the 1400s of 9.9 Pg C (5 ppm CO2). Including feedback processes this contributed between 47% and 67% of the 15–22 Pg C (7–10 ppm CO2) decline in atmospheric CO2 between 1520 CE and 1610 CE seen in Antarctic ice core records.
  • These changes show that human actions had global impacts on the Earth system in the centuries prior to the Industrial Revolution.
  • Using indigenous population decline estimates and their per capita land use we can estimate the extent to which vegetation succession in the Americas occurred following the Great Dying in the first century after European arrival, and how this may have impacted resulting carbon sequestration.
  • However, in almost all cases an increase in plant biomass occurs over time, increasing the carbon stored on the land

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