Social factors trump resources for food security following disasters

March 5, 2014
Social factors trump resources for food security following disasters
Credit: Flickr/twdbth

Following a natural disaster, vulnerability to food shortage appears to depend more on a group's ability to migrate and its positive relationships with other groups than on resource factors. That's according to a research team led by Arizona State University archaeologist Margaret Nelson.

Last month, Nelson presented the group's findings at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Chicago.

The National Association of Science Writers recently posted an article on their site outlining the research.

Nelson's team studied populations in the U.S. Southwest and the North Atlantic islands, using archaeological data going back to 600 A.D. They looked at risk factors contributing to a population's vulnerability to , like periods of severe cold or drought.

They found that extreme climate conditions led to major social collapse and reduced populations in some cases but not others.

Studied factors were divided into two categories: resource factors, including the size and diversity of a group's food supply; and , like a group's ability to migrate, and the strength of its relationships with other groups in the area.

"Population resource balance seems to contribute very little to vulnerability to ," said Nelson, a President's Professor in the School of Human Evolution and Social Change in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. "That was surprising to us."

Nelson believes that her team's findings can be used to improve approaches to risk management and disaster preparedness.

Explore further: Hunger atlas takes a new look at an old problem

Related Stories

Hunger atlas takes a new look at an old problem

July 6, 2010

World hunger is often seen as the result of overpopulation, bad geography or natural or human-made disasters. But a new book, "The Atlas of World Hunger," reveals that the contours and causes of hunger are more complex - ...

Unnatural disasters

December 23, 2011

Global wildlife is facing an unprecedented threat from natural disasters exacerbated by climate change, warn scientists in a paper published in Trends in Ecology and Evolution.

Natural disasters: Is your municipality vulnerable?

March 19, 2013

How vulnerable are municipalities to adverse effects from flooding, strong winds, avalanches, land or mudslides or other natural disasters? In Norway, researchers have developed an interactive map displaying physical and ...

The future of the suburbs

September 26, 2013

Few living environments are more universally maligned than the suburbs. The suburbs stand accused of being boring, homogeneous, inefficient, car-oriented, and sterile. Some critics even argue that the suburbs make people ...

Recommended for you

Who you gonna trust? How power affects our faith in others

October 6, 2015

One of the ongoing themes of the current presidential campaign is that Americans are becoming increasingly distrustful of those who walk the corridors of power – Exhibit A being the Republican presidential primary, in which ...

Ancient genome from Africa sequenced for the first time

October 8, 2015

The first ancient human genome from Africa to be sequenced has revealed that a wave of migration back into Africa from Western Eurasia around 3,000 years ago was up to twice as significant as previously thought, and affected ...

The hand and foot of Homo naledi

October 6, 2015

The second set of papers related to the remarkable discovery of Homo naledi, a new species of human relative, have been published in scientific journal, Nature Communications, on Tuesday, 6 October 2015.

Mexican site yields new details of sacrifice of Spaniards

October 9, 2015

It was one of the worst defeats in one of history's most dramatic conquests: Only a year after Hernan Cortes landed in Mexico, hundreds of people in a Spanish-led convey were captured, sacrificed and apparently eaten.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.