The role of paleoecology in whole-ecosystem science

S. McGowan (Corresponding author), P.R. Leavitt

Research output: Chapter in book/volumeChapterScientificpeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Paleoecological analyses provide exceptionally long time series of population abundance, community composition, environmental variability, ecosystem subsidies, and temporal variability that can uniquely inform and guide ecosystem managers and scientists conducting whole-ecosystem experiments. This chapter illustrates the potential of retrospective studies to inform, guide, and refine ecosystem experimentation and management using case studies derived from paleoecological studies of freshwater lakes. First, we illustrate how synchrony (temporal correlation) and variance partitioning analysis may be used to quantify the natural mechanisms underlying lake ontogeny in the absence of human effects in lakes from Southwest Greenland. Second, we show how a combination of biogeochemical (15N isotopes, pigments), time series and correlation analyses of sediment cores can be used to both reconstruct and characterise historical variance in sockeye salmon fisheries, and to elucidate the relationship between sockeye salmon and lake primary production in the Bristol Bay region of Alaska. Finally, we show how a combination of paleoecological analysis and long-term ecological monitoring programs can both identify the main causes of water quality change during the twentieth century and quantify the role of N in regulating primary production in lakes of the Canadian Prairies.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationReal World Ecology: Large-Scale and Long-Term Case Studies and Methods
PublisherSpringer New York
Number of pages48
ISBN (Print)9780387779416
Publication statusPublished - 2009
Externally publishedYes


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