Climate and social resilience in Cyprus

Understanding how past societies responded to extreme climatic changes is crucial for gaining insight into current and future environmental challenges, especially environmental stress and sanitary conditions in the context of the present climate change impacting the Near-East. Evidence from paleoclimate data clearly indicates that climatic fluctuations in this area over the past millennium have not been homogeneous. Instead, a high degree of variability over time and across space is pointed out by hydrological changes in particular steep topography environments. These fluctuations were challenging for societies since precipitation variability can impact agriculture, food production but also sanitary conditions and the spread of disease.

This project funded by the French Agency for Research (ANR) for 4 years, investigates the interaction between climate change and social responses since the medieval period in the poorly studied Near-East region, specifically on the island of Cyprus, and uses novel indicators for both climate and social vulnerability. On one hand, natural archives such as speleothems provide high-resolution and quantitative hydrological and temperature data to complement existing dendrochronology data as well as compiled weather data for the last century. The compilation of paleoclimate data will be transformed into climate maps of the island. On the other hand, the compiled public health archives of mortality and diseases together with past landscape maps offer new indicators to analyze social responses.

This research program starting in 2021, is based on a multidisciplinary approach in reconstructing human and environmental indicators in order to propose hypotheses for the spread of diseases over specific periods of the Middle Ages and the contemporaneous period and to test the modeled scenarios. The research team brings together palaeoenvironmentalists, ecologists and paleoclimatologists, climate modelers, health geographers and disease spread modelers. Several universities are involved with UMR IDEES 6266 CNRS (main investigator) in this research program: The University of Nicosia, the Technological Institute of Karlsruhe and the Saint-Joseph University of Beirut (CREEMO).