Cause and Effect: discerning the roles of the Aleut through 4500 years of changing North Pacific ecosystems

October 4, 2012 • Filed under: News — melanie.rohr

In this week’s WERC seminar, Nicole Misarti will present data from the Sanak Biocomplexity project and discuss the interactions between human dynamics, climate and ecosystem changes.

Friday Seminar Series

  • What: Cause and Effect: discerning the roles of the Aleut through 4500 years of changing North Pacific ecosystems
  • Who: Nicole Misarti
  • When: 3:30-4:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 5
  • Where: 535 Duckering

Archaeological remains uncovered from Sanak Island, AK include fossils of mammal, bird, and fish species.

Humans have been part of the ecosystems of the northeast Pacific for at least 9000 years. The Sanak Biocomplexity project, an 8 year NSF funded project that recently ended, has traced the dynamic interactions between humans and ecosystems of the Eastern Aleutian Archipelago over thousands of years through data from archaeological sites. The Aleut have helped to shape the terrestrial landscape and nearshore ecology for the last 4,500 years. Conversely, ocean and atmospheric climate have influenced population size, village location, house size, resource consumption and sociopolitical trajectories. Stable isotope data combined with zooarchaeological findings have formed a picture of Aleuts as both agents of top-down change and reactors to bottom-up processes. Humans, climate, and ecosystems in the northeast Pacific continue to influence one another in the present day. From crashes in cod fisheries in the 1920s to more recent concerns in crab fisheries leading to rationalization, combined with ongoing volatility of salmon returns, human populations on Sanak Island and the nearby Alaska Peninsula have increased, decreased, or migrated to more favorable locales. The fate of modern communities continues to rest on the fates of the local fisheries.

Image top: Archaeological remains uncovered from Sanak Island, AK include fossils of mammal, bird, and fish species.

Photo by Matt Betts