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  • Print publication year: 2021
  • Online publication date: April 2021

3 - Case Studies from Prehistory


This chapter profiles examples of ecosystem collapse and recovery in prehistory. First, the ‘Big Five’ mass extinction events in the fossil record are considered, both in terms of the collapses that occurred and how ecosystems subsequently recovered. Examples from the Quaternary Period are then discussed, including the extinction of the Australian megafauna and the slightly later megafauna extinctions observed in other geographic regions. Case studies profiled from the Holocene period focus on the spread of agriculture throughout the world and the specific cases of New Zealand, Madagascar and the Sahel-Sahara. At the end of the chapter, the theoretical propositions identified in Chapter 2 are then evaluated in the light of the empirical evidence available from prehistory.