Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America ( IF 9.412 ) Pub Date : 2020-09-14 , DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1919217117 Ting Ma, Barry V. Rolett, Zhuo Zheng, Yongqiang Zong
Rice agriculture is the foundation of Asian civilizations south of the Yangtze River. Although rice history is well documented for its lower Yangtze homeland area, the early southward expansion of paddy rice farming is poorly known. Our study investigates this process using a compilation of paleoenvironmental proxies from coastal sediment cores from southeast China to Thailand and Island Southeast Asia. We propose that a shortage of land suitable for paddy fields, caused by marine transgression, constrained rice agriculture during the mid-Holocene. Rapid expansion of coastal plains, particularly in deltaic basins, over the past three millennia has coincided with increases in land suitable for rice cultivation. Our study also helps explain the past population movements of rice farmers.