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New Research reveals that Water shortage may have led to demise of Maya civilisation

Within a short period of time, Mayan civilisation in Central America went from flourishing to collapsing probably due to water shortage

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1892 photograph of the Castillo at Chichen Itza, by Teoberto Maler. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

London, August 24, 2016: New Research has revealed that the irrigation technology that served the Mayans well during periods of drought may have actually made their society more vulnerable to major catastrophes.

Something really drastic must have happened to the ancient Maya at the end of the Classic Period in the ninth century.

Within a short period of time, this advanced civilisation in Central America went from flourishing to collapsing- the population dwindling rapidly and monumental stone structures were no longer being constructed.

The socio-hydrological model developed by the Gunter Bloschl-led team at Vienna University of Technology (TU Wien) tell us that droughts and water issues are one possible explanation for their demise and shows us just how vulnerable an engineered society can be.

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“It’s well-known that the Mayans built water reservoirs in preparation for dry spells,” said Linda Kuil, one of professor Gunter Bloschl’s PhD students of the Vienna Doctoral Programme on Water Resource Systems.

“With our model, we can now analyse the effects of the Mayans’ water engineering on their society. It is also possible to simulate scenarios with and without water reservoirs and compare the consequences of such decisions,” Kuil noted.

The water supply determines how much food is available and, in turn, affects the growth of the population.

As it turns out, water reservoirs can actually provide substantial relief during short periods of drought.

In the simulations without reservoirs, the Mayan population declines after a drought, whereas it continues to grow if reservoirs provide extra water.

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However, the reservoirs may also make the population more vulnerable during the prolonged dry spells.

Maya Civilisation. Image source: Wikimedia Commons
Maya Civilisation. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

The water management behaviour may remain the same, and the water demand per person does not decrease, but the population continues to grow.

“This may then prove fatal if another drought occurs resulting in a decline in population that is more dramatic than without reservoirs,” the authors noted.

“When it comes to scarce resources, the simplest solutions might turn out to be superficial and not always the best ones,” Kuil added.

The lessons learnt may also help us to draw important conclusions for our own future.

“We need to be careful with our natural resources. If technical measures simply deal with the shortage of resources on a superficial level and we do not adjust our own behaviour, society is left vulnerable,” the authors pointed out. (IANS)

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New Device to Detect Low Fluoride in Water

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has set 1.5 mg/litre as the maximum limit for fluoride in drinking water

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This September 2015 photo from NOAA Fisheries shows an adult female orca and her calf, in Washington state's Puget Sound. Researchers reported Jan. 11, 2019, that there's a new calf among killer whales that live in the waters between Washington state and Canada. VOA

Researchers have built a new device to accurately measure fluoride concentrations using only a few drops of water with even low contamination, finds a new study.

In India, low concentration of fluoride – below 1.5 mg/litre – is used to prevent tooth decay and strengthening of bones. But if it touches above 2 ppm it could cause serious health issues, like dental and bone disease, especially in children and developing foetuses.

That’s where the device – SION-105 – comes in. It’s portable, considerably cheaper than ones in use now, and can be used on-site by anyone. In addition, it is luminescent by default, but darkens when it encounters fluoride ions.

Measuring fluoride at low concentrations with sufficient accuracy is expensive and requires a well-equipped chemical lab.

australia, underwater
A man snorkels in an area called the “Coral Gardens” near Lady Elliot Island, on the Great Barrier Reef, off Queensland, Australia, June 11, 2015. Scientists recently found similar-looking coral reefs in much deeper water off Tasmania. VOA

Kyriakos Stylianou at EPFL Valais Wallis in Switzerland said SION-105 detects fluorides by adding only a few droplets of water and by monitoring the colour change of the metal-organic frameworks (MOFs).

The study was published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

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Adding fluoride to water has been a common practice in many countries, including the US, Australia, Brazil, Malaysia, India and Vietnam, especially in low concentrations – below 1.5 mg/litre.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has set 1.5 mg/litre as the maximum limit for fluoride in drinking water. (IANS)