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|Title:||Loss of an ecological baseline through the eradication of oyster reefs from coastal ecosystems and human memory|
|Citation:||Conservation Biology, 2015; 29(3):795-804|
|Heidi K. Alleway and Sean D. Connell|
|Abstract:||Oyster reefs form over extensive areas and the diversity and productivity of sheltered coasts depend on them. Due to the relatively recent population growth of coastal settlements in Australia, we were able to evaluate the collapse and extirpation of native oyster reefs (Ostrea angasi) over the course of a commercial fishery. We used historical records to quantify commercial catch of O. angasi in southern Australia from early colonization, around 1836, to some of the last recorded catches in 1944 and used our estimates of catch and effort to map their past distribution and assess oyster abundance over 180 years. Significant declines in catch and effort occurred from 1886 to 1946 and no native oyster reefs occur today, but historically oyster reefs extended across more than 1,500 km of coastline. That oyster reefs were characteristic of much of the coastline of South Australia from 1836 to 1910 appears not to be known because there is no contemporary consideration of their ecological and economic value. Based on the concept of a shifted baseline, we consider this contemporary state to reflect a collective, intergenerational amnesia. Our model of generational amnesia accounts for differences in intergenerational expectations of food, economic value, and ecosystem services of nearshore areas. An ecological system that once surrounded much of the coast and possibly the past presence of oyster reefs altogether may be forgotten and could not only undermine progress towards their recovery, but also reduce our expectations of these coastal ecosystems.|
|Keywords:||Ecosystem collapse; historical ecology; historical fishing; Ostrea angasi; shifted baseline|
|Description:||Published online: 14 January 2015|
|Rights:||© 2015 Society for Conservation Biology|
|Appears in Collections:||Earth and Environmental Sciences publications|
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