from the accidental-retaining-wall dept.
sciencehabit (1205606) writes "The Spanish conquest of the Inca had a profound effect on Peru's indigenous people, but a new study reveals that it also had an unexpected impact on the land itself. Before the Spaniards arrived, inhabitants of the arid northern Peruvian coast clad massive sand dune-like ridges with an accidental form of 'armor': millions of discarded mollusk shells, which protected the ridges from erosion for nearly 4700 years and produced a vast corrugated landscape that is visible from space. This incidental landscape protection came to a swift end, however, after diseases brought by Spanish colonists decimated the local population and after colonial officials resettled the survivors inland. Without humans to create the protective covering, newly formed beach ridges simply eroded and vanished."
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