Project 1704P: PALAEO-SPCZ-Vanuatu

The South Pacific Convergence Zone (SPCZ), stretching from Papua New Guinea to French Polynesia, represents the largest rainfall band in the Southern Hemisphere. This climate feature is widely reconised as having a strong influence over local and global climate. Variability in the size and position of the SPCZ is related to extreme droughts and increased cyclone frequency and intensity, although little is understood of the impact of this variability, even within the recent past. Archaeological records and oral histories show that different island communities have managed to sustain settlement on almost all islands in the region despite the climate volatility and changing resource availability. Island communities have also influenced resource availability through differing agricultural practices, but separating human versus climatic controls on agricultural production is the greatest challenge for environmental scientists. Many islands in the SPCZ region have lacked instrumental meteorological records, thus corals, speleothems, sedimentary cores and other archives are especially important for reconstructing past environmental changes. An increasing number of tools such as high resolution elemental analyses and isotopic studies are allowing scientists to accurately reconstruct past environmental changes. However, many of these tools have rarely been applied within the SPCZ region, and only now are international and regional teams working in a more concerted way with local researchers to better understand the climate dynamics of the region and . The PALAEO-SPCZ workshop draws on the expertise of climate and environmental scientists, archaeologists and local cultural informants to better understand the relationship between people and the changing environment.

For further information please contact Sarah Finkelstein (