Conservation Paleobiology: Finding Solutions in the Fossil Record

Friday, February 17, 2017: 1:00 PM-2:30 PM
Room 204 (Hynes Convention Center)
Scientists, environmental managers, and the public are increasingly appreciating the diverse and pervasive effects of humans on natural biological systems, from exploitation and pollution to climate change. However, quantitative data on rates and patterns of change, including “baseline” conditions that existed even just a few decades or centuries ago, are extremely difficult to acquire: direct observation often started long after human stresses began. Longer-term perspectives are crucial for evaluating the roles of natural and human stressors driving change and the likely resilience of systems to continued stress. This session presents case studies in conservation paleobiology that illustrate the baseline information and insights that can be acquired from very young fossil records. This new approach draws on fossils in sedimentary cores and natural outcrops and on archaeological middens and the skeletal remains (i.e., bones, shells) that accumulate naturally on modern-day seabeds and landscapes. Speakers will consider the need to disentangle multiple stressors, acting in sequence or in concert, and the rigorous inference of baseline states in animal abundance, life history, and interactions, when no remnants of such states may survive today. These methods overcome major challenges for management and conservation of biological diversity posed when only short time frames of observation are available, and they will be valuable in many settings going forward.
Susan Kidwell, University of Chicago
Rowan Lockwood, College of William and Mary
Oysters Past and Present, and the Future of the Chesapeake Bay
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