Learning from the past: opportunities for advancing ecological research and practice using palaeoecological data

Goodenough, Anne E ORCID: 0000-0002-7662-6670 and Webb, Julia C ORCID: 0000-0002-1652-965X (2022) Learning from the past: opportunities for advancing ecological research and practice using palaeoecological data. Oecologia, 199. pp. 275-287. doi:10.1007/s00442-022-05190-z

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Palaeoecology involves analysis of fossil and sub-fossil evidence preserved within sediments to understand past species distributions, habitats and ecosystems. However, while palaeoecological research is sometimes made relevant to contemporary ecology, especially to advance understanding of biogeographical theory or inform habitat-based conservation at specific sites, most ecologists do not routinely incorporate palaeoecological evidence into their work. Thus most cross-discipline links are palaeoecology → ecology rather than ecology → palaeoecology. This is likely due to lack of awareness and/or the misnomer that palaeoecology invariably relates to the “distant past” (thousands of years) rather than being applicable to the “recent past” (last ~ 100–200 years). Here, we highlight opportunities for greater integration of palaeoecology within contemporary ecological research, policy, and practice. We identify situations where palaeoecology has been, or could be, used to (1) quantify recent temporal change (e.g. population dynamics; predator–prey cycles); (2) “rewind” to a particular point in ecological time (e.g. setting restoration/rewilding targets; classifying cryptogenic species); (3) understand current ecological processes that are hard to study real-time (e.g. identifying keystone species; detecting ecological tipping points); (4) complement primary data and historical records to bridge knowledge gaps (e.g. informing reintroductions and bioindicator frameworks); (5) disentangle natural and anthropogenic processes (e.g. climate change); and (6) draw palaeoecological analogues (e.g. impacts of pests). We conclude that the possibilities for better uniting ecology and palaeoecology to form an emerging cross-boundary paradigm are as extensive as they are exciting: we urge ecologists to learn from the past and seek opportunities to extend, improve, and strengthen their work using palaeoecological data.

Item Type: Article
Article Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Ecological monitoring; Ecological management; Conservation; Spatiotemporal change
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GE Environmental Sciences
Divisions: Schools and Research Institutes > School of Education and Science
Research Priority Areas: Place, Environment and Community
Depositing User: Sofia Raseta
Date Deposited: 01 Jun 2022 11:35
Last Modified: 31 Aug 2023 08:57
URI: https://eprints.glos.ac.uk/id/eprint/11178

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