Belize

Get your optimism from the past

When we think about a “pristine” untouched ecosystem we often have a single, preconceived image in mind. It could be a grassland with thousands of bison, a thick tropical forest, or a coral reef teeming with fish and sharks. These places certainly existed, and in many cases are now lost or replaced by alternatives, but there has always been variation and not everywhere would fit into these limited boxes. There must always have been marginal ecosystems and vast amounts of variation.

It is this variation that we propose can help conservation. If we can describe that variation we can do a better job at placing modern ecosystems into context. In this paper, published in Conservation Biology, BaselineCaribbean members discuss our ideas of how the fossil record can be used to redefine what should be considered “pristine” and the positive benefits of doing so for conservation.

Open Access available

O’Dea, A., M. Dillon, E., H. Altieri, A. and L. Lepore, M. (2017), Look to the past for an optimistic future. Conservation Biology. doi:10.1111/cobi.12997

DCIM105GOPRO

DCIM105GOPRO

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Coring Caribbean reefs

Alongside our work examining the relative abundances of coral and mollusc skeletons, shark dermal denticles, sponge spicules and fish otoliths in large tracts of exposed mid-Holocene reefs, we have also been collaborating with Drs. Katie Cramer and Richard Norris (Scripps) to explore sequential changes in Caribbean reef ecosystems by extracting reef matrix cores in Belize and Bocas del Toro, Panama. We collected more than twenty 6m long aluminium cores from several lagoonal fringing reefs that capture reef ecosystem conditions going back the last couple of thousand years.

See more about the approach in this little video