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

  • Ruth H. Thurstan
  • John M. Pandolfi
  • Philine S. E. zu Ermgassen
Living reference work entry


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.


Benthic communities Demersal trawling Exploitation Historical ecology Marine fisheries 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ruth H. Thurstan
    • 1
  • John M. Pandolfi
    • 1
  • Philine S. E. zu Ermgassen
    • 2
  1. 1.ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies and School of Biological SciencesThe University of QueenslandSt LuciaAustralia
  2. 2.Department of ZoologyUniversity of CambridgeCambridgeUK

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