Perspective ARTICLE

Front. Ecol. Evol., 17 December 2013 |

Challenging Easter Island's collapse: the need for interdisciplinary synergies

  • 1Botanic Institute of Barcelona (IBB-CSIC-ICUB), Barcelona, Spain
  • 2Department of Stratigraphy, Paleontology and Marine Sciences, Faculty of Geology, Universitat de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain
  • 3Department of Geology, Faculty of Sciences, Universidade da Coruña, A Coruña, Spain
  • 4Center for Advanced Studies of Blanes (CEAB-CSIC), Blanes, Girona, Spain
  • 5Centre for Ecological Research and Forestry Applications (CREAF), Barcelona, Spain
  • 6Pyrenean Institute of Ecology (IPE-CSIC), Zaragoza, Spain
  • 7Department of Sedimentary Geology and Geohazadrs, Institute of Earth Sciences Jaume Almera (ICTJA-CSIC), Barcelona, Spain

The reigning paradigm holds that Easter Island suffered a socio-ecological collapse (ecocidal or not) sometime in the last millennium, prior to European contact (AD 1720). We discuss some novel paleoecological and archaeological evidence that challenges this assumption. We use this case study to propose a closer collaboration between archaeology and paleoecology. This collaboration allows us to unravel historical trends in which both environmental changes and human activities might have acted, alone or coupled, as drivers of ecological and social transformations. We highlight a number of particular points in which scholars from disparate disciplines, working together, may enhance the scope and the soundness of historical inferences. These points are the following: (1) the timing of the initial Easter Island colonization and the origin of the settlers, (2) the pace of ecological and social transformations since that time until the present, and (3) the occurrence of potential climate-human synergies as drivers of socio-ecological shifts.

Keywords: Easter Island, ecological breakdown, social collapse, paleoecology, paleoclimatology, research synergies

Citation: Rull V, Cañellas-Boltà N, Sáez A, Margalef O, Bao R, Pla-Rabes S, Valero-Garcés B and Giralt S (2013) Challenging Easter Island's collapse: the need for interdisciplinary synergies. Front. Ecol. Evol. 1:3. doi: 10.3389/fevo.2013.00003

Received: 27 October 2013; Accepted: 30 November 2013;
Published online: 17 December 2013.

Edited by:

Christopher Carcaillet, Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes, France

Reviewed by:

Christopher Carcaillet, Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes, France
Simon C. Brewer, University of Utah, USA

Copyright © 2013 Rull, Cañellas-Boltà, Sáez, Margalef, Bao, Pla-Rabes, Valero-Garcés and Giralt. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

*Correspondence: Valentí Rull, Laboratory of Palynology and Paleoecology, Botanic Institute of Barcelona (IBB-CSIC-ICUB), Pg. del Migdia s/n, Barcelona 08038, Spain e-mail: