Settlement abandonment in the context of global environmental change


Journal Article


McLeman, R.


Settlement abandonment in the context of global environmental change




Global Environmental Change

Vol (No), pp

Supplement 21, 108-12


This article reports findings from a study of settlement abandonment and the interactions between environmental and non-environmental factors that may give rise to it. Through a modified systematic review of scholarly literature, an inventory of 246 ancient and modern examples of settlement abandonment was generated. Common spatial and temporal parameters were identified and a typology created to summarize environmental and non-environmental drivers common across cases. Dynamic interactions of drivers that lead to a progression from vulnerability to population decline and abandonment were examined in the cases of Plymouth, Montserrat, abandoned due to volcanism in the 1990s; recent rural depopulation in northeastern Iraq and the southern marshes; outmigration from the southern Aral Sea region; and, neighbourhood abandonment and a proposal to convert abandoned lands in Detroit to commercial farming. The study finds that with growing vulnerability to environmental change across many regions, there is greater potential for increased numbers of abandonments. However, abandonment should be seen as only one possible outcome of environment and population interactions that create vulnerability and stimulate environmental migration. The study concludes with a series of observations relevant to anticipating and planning for potential population decline and settlement abandonment in the face of future global environmental change.


McLeman, R. (2011). Settlement abandonment in the context of global environmental change. Global Environmental Change, supplement 21, 108–112. URL :