Climatic stress contributing to ancient city's demise serves as modern warning: Aussie research

Source: Xinhua| 2018-10-18 10:03:43|Editor: Chengcheng
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SYDNEY, Oct. 18 (Xinhua) -- The ancient Cambodian city of Angkor suffered from extreme weather conditions that strained its infrastructure within a major canal system, contributing to its demise that also serves as a warning for modern urban communities, according to a latest Australian research.

Angkor, built on a complex system of canals, water catchments and embankments, was once the largest city in the world, but it recorded a massive population fall in the 15th century, the University of Sydney said in a statement about its study on Thursday.

Using in-depth mapping analyses, university researchers found that the city suffered external climate stress coupled with overloaded infrastructure within a complex canal network, which helped to provide evidence of a "vulnerability to catastrophic failures."

"The water management infrastructure of Angkor has been developed over centuries, becoming very large, tightly interconnected, and dependent on older and ageing components. The change in the middle of the 14th century... from prolonged drought to particularly wet years, put too much stress on this complex network, making the water distribution unstable," said research team co-leader professor Mikhail Prokopenko.

The latest findings, published in scientific journal Science Advances, "is crucial to improving infrastructure in an era of increasing frequent extreme weather events which are creating new and pressing risks to urban environments," he said.

"For the first time, identifying a systemic vulnerability in Angkor's infrastructural network has provided a mechanistic explanation for its demise, which comes with an important lesson for our contemporary urban environments," said research co-leader professor Daniel Penny.

The risks of such a "network collapse" have become more acute "as urban conglomerations become larger, more complex, and have more people living in them," said the researchers.

The findings emphasize the need for governments and communities to focus on building resilience into modern urban networks, particularly in the face of a changing climate, said Prokopenko.

"If we don't build resilience into our critical infrastructure, we may face severe and lasting disruptions to our civil systems, that can be intensified by external shocks and threaten our environment and economy," he said.