Human activities have shifted aquatic ecosystems far from prehistoric baseline states. A lack of long-term datasets that describe organisms and their habitats prior to human disturbance hampers the understanding of human-caused impacts. Fish are excellent, and largely underused, proxies that can reveal the degree, direction and scale of shifts in aquatic ecosystems. Time-based data sourced from contemporary, archived and ancient fish samples can improve our understanding of how aquatic ecosystems have changed. This range of biological, ecological and environmental data from fish can allow ecosystem baseline states to be better defined, providing a reference point to establish policy goals for future conservation and exploitation practices.
This research was published in Reviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries under the title Fish as proxies for ecological and environmental change.
Image: Historical fishing records and various biological parts of individual fish provide different types of data that can be used as proxies of aquatic baselines. Inset: Parts of the fish that can provide proxy data.
Photograph: A fisherman hauls a catch of Australasian snapper from the Hauraki Gulf off Auckland, New Zealand c. 1940. (The Alexander Turnbull Library: Reference No.: PAColl-3060- 067).