Living Reference Work Entry

Marine Animal Forests

pp 1-17

Date: Latest Version

Animal Forests Through Time: Historical Data to Understand Present Changes in Marine Ecosystems

  • Ruth H. ThurstanAffiliated withARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies and School of Biological Sciences, The University of Queensland Email author 
  • , John M. PandolfiAffiliated withARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies and School of Biological Sciences, The University of Queensland
  • , Philine S. E. zu ErmgassenAffiliated withDepartment of Zoology, University of Cambridge

Abstract

Animal forests form the foundation of many important marine benthic habitats. However, a near ubiquitous lack of long-term scientific data raises significant challenges in assessing how these communities have changed over time in response to human impacts and how they might respond to future perturbations. To address these questions, alternative sources of data have to be gathered. Marine historical ecology is a rapidly growing field of research that uses historical sources to challenge our assumptions about what is natural in our marine environments. This discipline thus has the potential to fill some of the gaps in our understanding of animal forests through time. This chapter reviews how historical ecology research helps us to better understand the changes that have occurred in marine animal forests, focusing in particular upon oyster and shallow-water coral communities. The variety of data sources available and the methodologies that have been used to uncover past changes in these and related ecosystems are highlighted. The use of historical data to inform restoration efforts and emerging concepts in marine ecology, such as ecosystem service provision, is examined. Finally, the limitations of historical data and remaining knowledge gaps with regard to past animal forest communities are discussed.

Keywords

Benthic communities Demersal trawling Exploitation Historical ecology Marine fisheries