The Nazca are famous for creating complex line drawings that can only be seen from the air in the Nazca desert, Peru 400km south of Lima.
They were created between 500BC and 500AD and depict animals such as monkeys and whales as well as geometric figures several kilometres long.
As well as the lines, the Nazca also formed a sophisticated society, constructing complex irrigation systems for agriculture.
However, despite their skills and expertise, the researchers say the Nazca society inadvertently contributed to their own demise through the removal of the tree species.
“The landscape only became exposed to the catastrophic effects of that El Nino flood, once people had inadvertently crossed an ecological threshold,” explains Dr Beresford-Jones.