Thousands of US archaeological sites threatened by climate change: study

02 December 2017

Thousands of historic and archeological sites along the southern US coast are at risk due to rising sea-levels by the end of the century, according to scientists.

Not only our future is imperiled due to climate change, our past too may be at risk, according to new research.

Over 13,000 archaeological sites, historic buildings, and cultural landscapes on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of the southeastern US are at risk from sea-level rise and could be under water by 2100.

The team, led by David Anderson from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville studied data from the Digital Index of North American Archaeology (DINAA) to estimate the risk from sea-level rise on archaeological sites.

DINAA, a platform, aggregates archeological and historical datasets compiled over the past century and from numerous sources and is aimed at providing researchers and the public with a comprehensive view of when and where humans settled.

On the basis of position and elevation data, the team warns that more than 13,000 sites in the southeast alone might find themselves under water for a mere 1 metre (3.28 ft) rise.

This includes over 1,000 sites listed on the National Register of Historic Places as having important cultural properties. But things could get much, much worse.

The journal PLOS One has published the study, ''Sea-level rise and archaeological site destruction: An example from the southeastern United States using DINAA (Digital Index of North American Archaeology)''.

"DINAA allows us to examine where people were living in North America over the entire 15,000-year record of human settlement," said study lead author Anderson, an archaeologist at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Live Science reported.

"We will lose much of the record of the last several thousand years of human occupation in coastal areas, where a great deal of history and settlement has occurred," Anderson said.

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