Chapter

Lessons from Land Present and Past Signs of Ecological Decay and the Overture to Earth’s Sixth Mass Extinctio

C. JOSH DONLAN, PAUL S. MARTIN and GARY W. ROEMER

in Whales, Whaling, and Ocean Ecosystems

Published by University of California Press

Published in print January 2007 | ISBN: 9780520248847
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520933200 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1525/california/9780520248847.003.0003
Lessons from Land Present and Past Signs of Ecological Decay and the Overture to Earth’s Sixth Mass Extinctio

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This book addresses the question of how the removal of whales in various fisheries influenced the workings of modern oceans. Despite the recent and dramatic nature of these events, their consequences are both controversial and poorly documented. This chapter presents a comparative view of other systems in which food web reorganization has apparently followed anthropogenic disturbances to key vertebrates. It argues that prehistoric, historic, and present-day reductions in some vertebrate populations may have been initially triggered by human action. These reductions subsequently distorted ecological dynamics, leading to ecosystem simplification or decay. The chapter turns to deep history in an effort to examine terrestrial vertebrate extinctions in the late Pleistocene and Holocene. It also discusses historic and contemporary examples of strong species interactions and ecosystem decay, starting on land and moving to coastal seas.

Keywords: whales; fisheries; food web reorganization; anthropogenic disturbances; vertebrate populations; ecosystem decay; late Pleistocene; Holocene; vertebrate extinctions

Chapter.  9451 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Aquatic Biology

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