Ecological and societal effects of Central Asian streamflow variation over the past eight centuries
AffiliationLaboratory of Tree‑Ring Research, University of Arizona
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CitationChen, F., Yuan, Y., Trouet, V., Büntgen, U., Esper, J., Chen, F., Yu, S., Shen, M., Zhang, R., Shang, H., Chen, Y., & Zhang, H. (2022). Ecological and societal effects of Central Asian streamflow variation over the past eight centuries. Npj Climate and Atmospheric Science.
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AbstractUnderstanding changes in water availability is critical for Central Asia; however, long streamflow reconstructions extending beyond the period of instrumental gauge measurements are largely missing. Here, we present a 785-year-long streamflow reconstruction from spruce tree rings from the Tien Shan Mountains. Although an absolute causal relationship can not be established, relatively high streamflow rates coincided roughly with the period of Mongol expansion from 1225 to 1260 CE and the rise of the Timurid Empire from 1361 to 1400 CE. Since overall wetter conditions were further found during the Zunghar Khanate period 1693–1705 CE, we argue that phases of streamflow surplus likely promoted oasis and grassland productivity, which was an important factor for the rise of inner Eurasian steppe empires. Moreover, we suggest that the streamflow variation might be critical for plague outbreaks in Central Asia, and propose several explanations for possible links with Europe’s repeated Black Death pandemics. We demonstrate that 20th-century low streamflow is unprecedented in the past eight centuries and exacerbated the Aral Sea crisis, which is one of the most staggering ecological disasters of the twentieth century. © 2022, The Author(s).
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Except where otherwise noted, this item's license is described as Copyright © The Author(s) 2022. This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.