skip to main content

Title: An Environmental and Climate History of the Roman Expansion in Italy
Abstract A first synthesis of available data for the period of Rome’s expansion in Italy (about 400–29 b.c.e.) shows the role of climate and environment in early Roman imperialism. Although global indices suggest a warmer phase with relatively few short-term climate events occuring around the same time as the expansion, local data emphasize the highly variable timing and expression of these trends. This variability casts doubt on ideas of a unitary, historically consequential “Roman Warm Period.” The historical importance of climate and environment to socioeconomic development merits emphasis, but should be understood in terms of evolving, contingent forms of resilience and risk-mitigating behavior by Italian communities during Roman expansion.  more » « less
Award ID(s):
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; more » ; « less
Date Published:
Journal Name:
The Journal of Interdisciplinary History
Page Range / eLocation ID:
1 to 41
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. The assassination of Julius Caesar in 44 BCE triggered a power struggle that ultimately ended the Roman Republic and, eventually, the Ptolemaic Kingdom, leading to the rise of the Roman Empire. Climate proxies and written documents indicate that this struggle occurred during a period of unusually inclement weather, famine, and disease in the Mediterranean region; historians have previously speculated that a large volcanic eruption of unknown origin was the most likely cause. Here we show using well-dated volcanic fallout records in six Arctic ice cores that one of the largest volcanic eruptions of the past 2,500 y occurred in early 43 BCE, with distinct geochemistry of tephra deposited during the event identifying the Okmok volcano in Alaska as the source. Climate proxy records show that 43 and 42 BCE were among the coldest years of recent millennia in the Northern Hemisphere at the start of one of the coldest decades. Earth system modeling suggests that radiative forcing from this massive, high-latitude eruption led to pronounced changes in hydroclimate, including seasonal temperatures in specific Mediterranean regions as much as 7 °C below normal during the 2 y period following the eruption and unusually wet conditions. While it is difficult to establish direct causal linkages to thinly documented historical events, the wet and very cold conditions from this massive eruption on the opposite side of Earth probably resulted in crop failures, famine, and disease, exacerbating social unrest and contributing to political realignments throughout the Mediterranean region at this critical juncture of Western civilization. 
    more » « less
  2. Abstract

    Expansion of distributed solar photovoltaic (PV) and natural gas‐fired generation capacity in the United States has put a renewed spotlight on methods and tools for power system planning and grid modernization. This article investigates the impact of increasing natural gas‐fired electricity generation assets on installed distributed solar PV systems in the Pennsylvania–New Jersey–Maryland (PJM) Interconnection in the United States over the period 2008–2018. We developed an empirical dynamic panel data model using the system‐generalized method of moments (system‐GMM) estimation approach. The model accounts for the impact of past and current technical, market and policy changes over time, forecasting errors, and business cycles by controlling for PJM jurisdictions‐level effects and year fixed effects. Using an instrumental variable to control for endogeneity, we concluded that natural gas does not crowd out renewables like solar PV in the PJM capacity market; however, we also found considerable heterogeneity. Such heterogeneity was displayed in the relationship between solar PV systems and electricity prices. More interestingly, we found no evidence suggesting any relationship between distributed solar PV development and nuclear, coal, hydro, or electricity consumption. In addition, considering policy effects of state renewable portfolio standards, net energy metering, differences in the PJM market structure, and other demand and cost‐related factors proved important in assessing their impacts on solar PV generation capacity, including energy storage as a non‐wire alternative policy technique.

    This article is categorized under:

    Photovoltaics > Economics and Policy

    Fossil Fuels > Climate and Environment

    Energy Systems Economics > Economics and Policy

    more » « less
  3. The collapse of the steppe-tundra biome (mammoth steppe) at the end of the Pleistocene is used as an important example of top-down ecosystem cascades, where human hunting of keystone species led to profound changes in vegetation across high latitudes in the Northern Hemisphere. Alternatively, it is argued that this biome transformation occurred through a bottom-up process, where climate-driven expansion of shrub tundra ( Betula , Salix spp.) replaced the steppe-tundra vegetation that grazing megafauna taxa relied on. In eastern Beringia, these differing hypotheses remain largely untested, in part because the precise timing and spatial pattern of Late Pleistocene shrub expansion remains poorly resolved. This uncertainty is caused by chronological ambiguity in many lake sediment records, which typically rely on radiocarbon ( 14 C) dates from bulk sediment or aquatic macrofossils—materials that are known to overestimate the age of sediment layers. Here, we reexamine Late Pleistocene pollen records for which 14 C dating of terrestrial macrofossils is available and augment these data with 14 C dates from arctic ground-squirrel middens and plant macrofossils. Comparing these paleovegetation data with a database of published 14 C dates from megafauna remains, we find the postglacial expansion of shrub tundra preceded the regional extinctions of horse ( Equus spp.) and mammoth ( Mammuthus primigenius ) and began during a period when the frequency of 14 C dates indicates large grazers were abundant. These results are not consistent with a model of top-down ecosystem cascades and support the hypothesis that climate-driven habitat loss preceded and contributed to turnover in mammal communities. 
    more » « less
  4. Aim

    The climate tolerances of many species are broader than those estimated from current native ranges. Indeed, the niches of some Afromontane trees are up to 50% larger after incorporation of fossil data. This expansion could reduce estimates of species' future range loss owing to climate change but also implies strong non‐climatic limitations on species' current ranges. One such limitation is land use, which fossil data suggest influences Afromontane tree distribution, preventing these trees from occupying warmer conditions than they do currently. We aimed to assess the degree to which the broader climatic tolerances revealed by fossil data buffer projected range loss from climate and land use for Afromontane trees.



    Time period

    Last 21,000 years.

    Major taxa studied

    Afromontane trees.


    We used species distribution models informed by both current and fossil distributions to project future ranges under climate and land‐use projections.


    We found that projected range reductions are only slightly ameliorated by incorporation of fossil distributions, and these improvements diminish further under severe land‐use or climate change scenarios. Taxa that are less impacted by climate are more impacted by intense land use. Depending on the severity of climate and land use, the geographical extent of Afromontane tree species' ranges will contract by 40–85%, and the trees will be completely lost from large portions of Africa. We projected that the surviving species' ranges will become increasingly fragmented.

    Main conclusions

    Maintaining Afromontane ecosystems will require mitigation of both climate and land‐use change and protection of areas to optimize connectivity. Our findings caution that species with climate tolerances broader than their current range might not necessarily fare better under strong changes in climate or land use.

    more » « less
  5. Mammals rose to prominence in terrestrial ecosystems after the Cretaceous–Paleogene mass extinction, but the mammalian lineages characteristic of Paleogene faunas began their evolutionary and ecological diversification in the Late Cretaceous, stimulated by the rise of angiosperms (flowering plants) according to the preeminent hy- pothesis. The Cretaceous rise of mammals is part of a larger expansion in biodiversity on land that has been termed the Cretaceous (or Angiosperm) Terrestrial Revolution, but the mechanisms underlying its initiation remain opaque. Here, we review data from the fossil and rock records of western North America—due to its relatively continuous fossil record and complete chronology of mountain-building events—to explore the role that tectonism might have played in catalyzing the rise of modern-aspect terrestrial biodiversity, especially that of mammals and angiosperms. We highlight that accelerated increases in mammal and angiosperm species richness in the Late Cretaceous, ca. 100–75 Ma, track the acceleration of tectonic processes that formed the North American Cordillera and occurred during the ‘middle-Cretaceous greenhouse’ climate. This rapid increase in both mammal and angiosperm diversity also occurred during the zenith of Western Interior Seaway trans- gression, a period when the availability of lowland habitats was at its minimum, and oscillatory transgression- regression cycles would have frequently forced upland range shifts among lowland populations. These changes to both landscapes and climates have all been linked to an abrupt, global tectonic-plate ‘reorganization’ that occurred ca. 100 Ma. That mammals and angiosperms both increased in species richness during this interval does not appear to be a taphonomic artifact—some of the largest spikes in diversity occur when the available mammal-bearing fossil localities are sparse. Noting that mountainous regions are engines for generating biodi- versity, especially in warm climates, we propose that the Cretaceous/Angiosperm Terrestrial Revolution was ultimately catalyzed by accelerated tectonism and enhanced via cascading changes to landscapes and climate. In the fossil record of individual basins across western North America, we predict that (1) increases in mammalian diversity through the Late Cretaceous should be positively correlated with rates of tectonic uplift, which we infer to be a proxy for topographic relief, and are attended by increased climate heterogeneity, (2) the diversity of mountain-proximal mammalian assemblages should exceed that of coeval mountain-distal assemblages, espe- cially in the latest Cretaceous, and (3) endemism should increase from the latest Cretaceous to early Paleogene as Laramide mountain belts fragmented the Western Interior. Empirical tests of these predictions will require increased fossil collecting in under-sampled regions and time intervals, description and systematic study of existing collections, and basin-scale integration of geological and paleontological data. Testing these predictions will further our understanding of the coevolutionary processes linking tectonics, climate, and life throughout Earth history. 
    more » « less