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Human Impacts on Ancient Marine Ecosystems

Human Impacts on Ancient Marine Ecosystems: A Global Perspective

Torben C. Rick
Jon M. Erlandson
Copyright Date: 2008
Edition: 1
Pages: 336
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  • Book Info
    Human Impacts on Ancient Marine Ecosystems
    Book Description:

    Archaeological data now show that relatively intense human adaptations to coastal environments developed much earlier than once believed—more than 125,000 years ago. With our oceans and marine fisheries currently in a state of crisis, coastal archaeological sites contain a wealth of data that can shed light on the history of human exploitation of marine ecosystems. In eleven case studies from the Americas, Pacific Islands, North Sea, Caribbean, Europe, and Africa, leading researchers working in coastal areas around the world cover diverse marine ecosystems, reaching into deep history to discover how humans interacted with and impacted these aquatic environments and shedding new light on our understanding of contemporary environmental problems.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-93429-0
    Subjects: Archaeology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
    Torben C. Rick and Jon M. Erlandson
  5. 1 Archaeology, Marine Ecology, and Human Impacts on Marine Environments
    (pp. 1-20)
    Jon M. Erlandson and Torben C. Rick

    COVERING MORE THAN 70 percent of our blue planet, the oceans dominate the earth in a variety of ways. With an average depth of almost 4 km, they provide over 99 percent of the habitable space for life on earth (Woodard 2000:31). As human populations have grown exponentially over the past century, and with 60 percent of the world’s population living within 100 km of the coast, many have looked to the oceans as a source of hope and protein to feed the masses. Once thought to be nearly inexhaustible, many global fisheries have collapsed or are severely depleted (Jackson...

    (pp. 21-42)
    Atholl Anderson

    THE POLYNESIAN ISLANDS LIE in the central Pacific Ocean where sheer distance from continental margins, and prevailing easterly winds and currents severely restricted biotic diversity in native terrestrial taxa, as exemplified by the complete absence of mammals other than bats. Human colonists, their own inventory of cultigens and domesticates slimmed in much the same way, had to look substantially to marine resources, especially in the distinctive region of South Polynesia, which extends across a 6,500,000-km² area of the Pacific Ocean. South Polynesia encloses New Zealand and the outlying island groups that surround it at a 500- to 800-km distance (Figure...

    (pp. 43-76)
    Debra G. Corbett, Douglas Causey, Mark Clementz, Paul L. Koch, Angela Doroff, Christine Lefèvre and Dixie West

    AMERICAN ARCHAEOLOGISTS have long considered environmental reconstruction integral to interpreting ancient cultures. Interdisciplinary studies involving geologists, soil scientists, palynologists, faunal analysts, and tree ring specialists all contribute to the interpretation of past human cultures and provide a framework for interpreting cultural change (Butzer 1982; Watson et al. 1971). In recent years, environmental reconstructions attracted the interest of wider audiences as biologists and environmentalists have sought information to restore damaged ecosystems. As our understanding of ecosystem processes increases, it is clear historical conditions and records are inadequate to characterize ecosystem variability and function. Paleoenvironmental studies are gaining greater urgency due to...

  8. 4 Historical Ecology and Human Impacts on Coastal Ecosystems of the Santa Barbara Channel Region, California
    (pp. 77-102)
    Torben C. Rick, Jon M. Erlandson, Todd J. Braje, James A. Estes, Michael H. Graham and René L. Vellanoweth

    IN RECENT YEARS, a number of researchers have emphasized the importance of archaeological and historical records for elucidating contemporary environmental issues and crises (e.g., Diamond 2005; Grayson 2001; Jackson et al. 2001; Kirch 1997; Kirch and Hunt 1997; Krech 1999; Lyman and Cannon 2004; Redman 1999; Redman et al. 2004). Many of these studies have demonstrated that virtually everywhere humans have gone they have had an impact and influence on local environments. These impacts have sometimes been profound. Although still a hotly debated and contentious issue (see Grayson and Meltzer 2002, 2003; Wroe et al. 2006), some researchers argue that...

  9. 5 Long-Term Effects of Human Predation on Marine Ecosystems in Guerrero, Mexico
    (pp. 103-124)
    Douglas J. Kennett, Barbara Voorhies, Thomas A. Wake and Natalia Martínez

    COASTAL AND MARINE ecosystems have long played a central role in the economies of people inhabiting Mexico, where today they are of paramount importance in the modern economy. Twenty-nine percent of the country’s 107 million people live in coastal settings, with annual capture rates of fish rising from ~.4 to 1.2 million metric tons since the 1970s (Earthtrends 2006). Increasing populations in coastal areas coupled with technological advancements and the expansion of Mexico’s fishing fleet contribute to concerns regarding long-term effects on these ecosystems. A new government agency, the Secretaría de Agricultura, Ganadería, Desarrollo Rural, Pesca y Alimentación (SAGARPA¹), was...

  10. 6 Ancient Fisheries and Marine Ecology of Coastal Peru
    (pp. 125-146)
    Elizabeth J. Reitz, C. Fred T. Andrus and Daniel H. Sandweiss

    RECENT RESEARCH, EXEMPLIFIED by chapters in this volume, documents the profound impact of people on marine fisheries and ecology in many areas (e.g., Lauwerier and Plug 2004; Pauly 1995; Pauly and Christensen 1995; Pauly et al. 1998, 2000). Although we do not disagree with evidence for the human role in precipitating some environmental changes, the Peruvian case suggests that in some instances evidence for the impact of ancient fisheries on marine ecology is subtle and should be evaluated in the context of other environmental forces. Climate models, zooarchaeology, and stable isotopes highlight the antiquity of marine resource use in coastal...

  11. 7 Human Impacts on Marine Environments in the West Indies during the Middle to Late Holocene
    (pp. 147-164)
    Scott M. Fitzpatrick, William F. Keegan and Kathleen Sullivan Sealey

    THE RECENT COLLAPSE of fisheries around the world (Jackson et al. 2001) from the overharvesting of resources, expanding coastal development, and dumping of various industrial and domestic waste products, has confirmed what many researchers in both the natural and social sciences had already suspected: humans are drastically influencing marine ecosystems to the point that many may never fully recover. The islands of the Caribbean are not immune to these impacts and are playing an increasingly important role in helping to determine the degree to which marine taxa have been altered by human activities over time. As continuing research in archaeology,...

  12. 8 Possible Prehistoric Fishing Effects on Coastal Marine Food Webs in the Gulf of Maine
    (pp. 165-186)
    Bruce J. Bourque, Beverly J. Johnson and Robert S. Steneck

    THE GULF OF MAINE is one of the world’s most productive marine ecosystems. Its coastal codfish stocks attracted European colonists, including the Pilgrims at Plymouth, Massachusetts, on the shores of the then appropriately named Cape Cod. Today, however, Atlantic cod(Gadus morhua)and virtually all large-bodied fishes are rare and “ecologically extinct” (sensu Estes et al. 1989) from coastal zones of the Gulf of Maine. The decline of cod and other groundfishes is widely believed to be the result of overfishing (Jackson et al. 2001). Further, because cod were the dominant predator in Gulf of Maine waters (Steneck and Carlton...

  13. 9 Codfish and Kings, Seals and Subsistence: NORSE MARINE RESOURCE USE IN THE NORTH ATLANTIC
    (pp. 187-214)
    Sophia Perdikaris and Thomas H. McGovern

    IN THE PAST TWO DECADES, the archaeology and paleoecology of the North Atlantic have been transformed by a series of major international, interdisciplinary projects (Barrett et al. 2000; Church et al. 2005; Dockrill et al. 2005; Edwards et al. 2004; McGovern 2001; McGovern et al. 2007; Parker-Pearson and Sharples 1999; Sharples 1998, 2005; Simpson et al. 2001). Most have been inspired by the theoretical framework of historical ecology (Crumley 1994) in their investigation of the complex interactions of climate, landscape change, and human culture in the region, and all have made geoarchaeology, archaeobotany, zooarchaeology, and human osteology part of their...

    (pp. 215-242)
    Geoff Bailey, James Barrett, Oliver Craig and Nicky Milner

    THE NORTH SEA BASIN is one of the most fertile marine environments in Europe. Its relatively shallow seabed, cool-temperate climate, and winter storms ensure rapid recycling of nutrients, while the presence of land masses on three sides and large rivers draining extensive catchments, such as the Thames, the Rhine, and the Elbe, bring additional inputs of nutrients from land. The geographical limits of the Basin are defined to the west by the coastline of Britain, to the east by the coastlines of southern Norway, western Sweden, and Denmark, and to the south by the coastlines of northern France, the Low...

    (pp. 243-278)
    Arturo Morales-Muñiz and Eufrasia Roselló-Izquierdo

    ALONG THE SHORES of southern Iberia, extensive fishing enterprises developed during classical times. Their testimonies are reflected in the many fish factories that dot the present-day coastline and in the thousands of southern Iberian amphorae that distributed fish products throughout the Mediterranean and beyond (Arévalo et al. 2004; Curtis 1991; Étienne and Mayet 2002; Ponsich 1988; Ponsich and Tarradell 1965; Van Neer and Ervynck 2004). From such data one may get the impression that the bounty from the waters on both sides of the Strait of Gibraltar was endless and that the inhabitants of southern Iberia have been making their...

  16. 12 Human Impact on Precolonial West Coast Marine Environments of South Africa
    (pp. 279-296)
    Antonieta Jerardino, George M. Branch and Rene Navarro

    WITH VERY EXTENSIVE, DIVERSE, and productive coastlines, it is no surprise that South Africa offers a superb opportunity to understand how marine ecosystems function, and the effects of people on these environments. This prospect is heightened by the realization of the tremendous time depth of human occupation, including the first emergence of modern humans in Africa and, by default, in the world (Erlandson 2001; Marean et al. 2007). This endeavor is multidisciplinary by necessity: marine ecology and archaeology go hand in hand, along with other closely related specialities such as oceanography, geology, and palaeoenvironmental studies. While ecological studies can provide...

  17. 13 Archaeology, Historical Ecology, and the Future of Ocean Ecosystems
    (pp. 297-308)
    Torben C. Rick and Jon M. Erlandson

    RAVAGED BY OVERFISHING, pollution, eutrophication, and numerous other processes, fisheries and marine ecosystems around the world are in a state of crisis. Human populations are also growing at a much higher rate along the coast than interior areas, suggesting that the pressure placed on coastal habitats will increase dramatically in the future. Numerous studies have demonstrated that significant steps are needed to restore the world’s oceans, including the continued establishment of marine protected areas (e.g., Botsford et al. 1997; Costanza et al. 1998; Dayton et al. 1998; Ellis 2003; Jackson 2001; Jackson et al. 2001; Pauly and Palomares 2005; Pauly...

  18. INDEX
    (pp. 309-320)
  19. Back Matter
    (pp. 321-322)