Human Impacts on Ancient Marine Ecosystems: A Global Perspective

Human Impacts on Ancient Marine Ecosystems: A Global Perspective

Human Impacts on Ancient Marine Ecosystems: A Global Perspective

Human Impacts on Ancient Marine Ecosystems: A Global Perspective


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.


Although their role has been underappreciated until recently, archaeological records from coastlines around the world contain a wealth of information on the history of marine fisheries, human impacts on marine ecosystems, and marine conservation principles. To illustrate the contributions archaeology can make to the study of historical ecology in a variety of marine ecosystems, this volume brings together experts from relatively well studied coastal regions around the world to summarize the history of human coastal occupation, environmental change, and human impacts in their area. The participants, an interdisciplinary group of archaeologists and marine ecologists, are some of the leading researchers involved in reconstructing the historical ecology and human impacts of coastal zones. They provide 11 case studies from the Americas, Pacific Islands, Europe, and Africa, and coverage of diverse marine ecosystems ranging from kelp forests to coral reefs to mangroves.

For this book, we invited contributions from archaeologists and marine ecologists with a firm grasp on the data from particular regions, a deep knowledge of long coastal sequences in their respective areas, and a history of studying human-environmental relationships. Wherever possible, these studies use a multidisciplinary approach to document natural environmental change (sea level history, marine productivity, habitat change, etc.), the antiquity of coastal adaptations, and changes in human demography, technology, social organization, and subsistence through time.

In each case study, we asked the authors to synthesize the evidence for human impacts on marine species or ecosystems across the full range of human occupation, from long prehistoric records, to early historical or colonial periods, to the emergence of increasingly globalized and industrialized fisheries of recent centuries or decades. Finally, these analyses consider the implications of the archaeological, historical, and ecological data from their region for our understanding of the nature of human impacts to marine ecosystems and for the development of fisheries management, conservation, and restoration protocols or policies that are more effective than those that have led to the widespread collapse of aquatic ecosystems and fisheries around the world. This is a large and complex undertaking, but one that we believe can greatly enhance the sustainability of the world’s marine ecosystems.

The length, quality, and resolution of archaeological, historical, and ecological records in different coastal areas around the world also vary . . .

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