Interactions of natural hazards and society in Austral-Asia: Evidence in historical and recent records

R. C. Sidle, D. Taylor, X. X. Lu, W. N. Adger, D. J. Lowe, W. P. de Lang, R. M. Newnham, J. R. Dodson

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Interactions of some of the principal historical natural hazards with human populations in the Austral-Asian region are discussed both from the perspective of the impact of the hazard on humans as well as the effects of human activities and climate change on hazard magnitude and frequency. Basically, the former type of interaction is evident for most hazards, while the latter interaction is primarily confined to terrestrial and coastal flooding, erosion, landslides, sea level rise, drought, and fire. Social vulnerability to natural hazards is related to the resources available to cope with the hazard, level of economic development, the ability to predict the occurrence of a hazard and to adjust and adapt to conditions posed by the hazard, and planning measures embraced by societies. Historical chronologies are presented for a range of hazards. Problems in reconstructing historical records of natural hazards include: interpretations of oral records; lack of supporting artifacts; obliteration of evidence of chronic hazards by higher magnitude events; and the inability to distinguish between the effects of different hazards in sediment records. Nevertheless, useful examples illustrate the effects and awareness of volcanic activity and associated hazards, such as tsunami, by early Maori and subsequent development of avoidance strategies; the effects of widespread land use changes and increases in population on the occurrence of floods, landslides and gullies in China and New Zealand; and the effects of forest conversion and drought on fire hazards in Indonesia.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)181-203
Number of pages23
JournalQuaternary International
Publication statusPublished - 2004

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