Cooling, Not Population Loss, Led to Fewer Fires After 1500 in New World
In the years after Columbus’ voyage, burning of New World forests and fields diminished significantly-a phenomenon some have attributed to decimation of native populations by European diseases. But a new University of Utah-led study suggests global cooling resulted in fewer fires because both preceded columbus in many regions worldwide.
“The drop in fire [after about A.D. 1500] has been linked previously to the population collapse. We’re saying no, there is enough independent evidence that the drop in fire was caused by cooling climate,” says the study’s principal author, Mitchell Power, an assistant professor of geography at the University of Utah.