3487 Archeology as Long-Term Ecology: The Dynamics of Humans and Marine Ecosystems on the North Pacific

Sunday, February 20, 2011: 2:00 PM
146B (Washington Convention Center )
Herbert D.G. Maschner , Idaho State University, Pocatello, ID
The Aleut have inhabited the Sanak Islands, located in the western Gulf of Alaska, for at least 7000 years. The rich shoals, reefs, and tidal areas of this archipelago have been the focus of extensive prehistoric, historic, and modern exploitation by peoples who have shaped the local ecosystem while adapting to the dynamics of climate change, volcanism, and tectonic instability.  Extensive village deposits record a dynamic history of demographic expansion and contraction, changes in economic focus, impacts on terrestrial and marine resources, and social development that can be juxtaposed against paleoecological data that show distinct shifts in marine productivity, climate, coastal geomorphic processes, and shifts in the distributions of key economic/subsistence resources.  Our understanding of the interactions between peoples and the landscapes they inhabit is grounded in finding the drivers of social and demographic change in the context of the human role in a complex, dynamic, and integrated island ecosystem.  Aleut society, history, and ecology cannot be understood independent of this role in the overall structure of the north Pacific ecosystem. Similarly, integrating diverse cultural, paleoecological, and contemporary data is critical to investigating how ecosystems function across multiple scales of time and geography. Dynamic modeling formally places the Aleut within the ecosystem and creates the structure for investigating long-term change, ecosystem integration, and sustainability. We find that, much like problems facing the modern peoples of the region, climate and marine productivity structures the spatial and temporal distributions of key species, as well as their abundances in the marine environment. Conversely, we also show that humans have played a key role in structuring the distributions and abundances of many species in the regional ecosystem.