Research articles

Bridging archaeology and marine conservation in the Neotropics


Anthropogenic impacts on tropical and subtropical coastal environments are increasing at an alarming rate, compromising ecosystem functions, structures and services. Understanding the scale of marine population decline and diversity loss requires a long-term perspective that incorporates information from a range of sources. The Southern Atlantic Ocean represents a major gap in our understanding of pre-industrial marine species composition. in this study published in PLOSONE, Fossile et al. begin to fill this gap by performing an extensive review of the published data on Middle and Late Holocene marine fish remains along the southern coast of Brazil. This region preserves archaeological sites that are unique archives of past socio-ecological systems and pre-European biological diversity. We assessed snapshots of species compositions and relative abundances spanning the last 9500 years, and modelled differences in species’ functional traits between archaeological and modern fisheries. We found evidence for both generalist and specialist fishing practices in pre-European times, with large body size and body mass caught regularly over hundreds of years. Comparison with modern catches revealed a significant decline in these functional traits, possibly associated with overfishing and escalating human impacts in recent times.