Trans-Holocene human impacts on California mussels ( Mytilus californianus )

Historical ecological management implications from the Northern Channel Islands

Authored by: Breana Campbell , Todd J. Braje , Stephen G. Whitaker

Multispecies Archaeology

Print publication date:  February  2018
Online publication date:  February  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138898981
eBook ISBN: 9781315707709
Adobe ISBN:


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Global fisheries and marine ecosystems have been heavily exploited and altered by the actions of humans, resulting in calls to rethink how we manage aquatic resources (e.g., U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy 2004). Decades of overfishing, degradation of marine ecosystems, and declines in marine biodiversity have spurred scientists, resource managers, and conservationists to explore new methods and interdisciplinary approaches to inform marine management policy and conservation agendas (e.g., Jackson et al. 2001; Kittinger et al. 2015; Myers and Worm 2003; Pauly et al. 1998; U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy 2004). One of the most significant challenges in conservation and restoration biology efforts has been the “shifting baseline syndrome” (Pauly 1995), where restoration efforts have relied on baseline data collected after marine ecosystems have already been degraded by human actions and overexploitation. In 1995, Pauly defined the shifting baselines syndrome and discussed the inherent flaws associated with using relatively modern data for establishing marine restoration targets. Pauly (1995) argued that every new generation of fisheries scientists tend to use catch, size, and abundance data from their early careers to measure the success of modern conservation efforts and the health of marine systems. This has resulted in the gradual degradation of marine ecosystems and global fisheries and a slow-moving ecological disaster, despite our best efforts at conservation and management. One solution for mitigating the shifting baselines syndrome is to extend the time depth of our management practices by using perspectives from archaeology, paleobiology, and history. This approach, known as marine historical ecology, can offer crucial insights into the changing seascapes of nearshore ecosystems and fisheries and help establish baselines that predate the modern collapse of the world’s oceans (Crumley 1994; Erlandson and Rick 2010; Rick and Lockwood 2013; Rick and Erlandson 2008).

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