• Six Thousand Years Of Change In The Northeast Pacific: An Interdisciplinary View Of Maritime Ecosystems

      Misarti, Nicole; Finney, Bruce (2007)
      The goal of this thesis is to develop long-term records of North Pacific ecosystems and explore relationships between change in marine ecosystems and prehistoric Aleut culture through soil chemistry, isotope analyses of lake cores, and isotope analyses of bone from archaeological middens. Chemical analysis of soils yielded differences in soils of various archaeological features as well as middens of varying composition. Sites that had no middens were chemically distinguishable from sites that did have middens helping to define resource consumption in the local region. An important result of this study is that no single ecosystem (nearshore benthic, coastal pelagic or deep-ocean pelagic) experienced the same changes in delta13C and delta 15N over the past 4,500 years. This suggests that changes in climate affected different ecosystems in unique ways. Only one change spans all species studied, the decrease in modern delta13C in comparison to delta13C of prehistoric specimens. According to these comparisons, the modern Gulf of Alaska may not be in the highly productive state that it was for the past 4,500 years, with the possible exception of the Medieval Warm Period. Lake core sediment analysis suggests an increase in salmon stocks in the Gulf of Alaska beginning ∼6,000 years ago, with a decrease during the Medieval Warm Period. In fact, salmon stocks in the Gulf of Alaska appear to be healthiest during periods of atmospheric cooler and wetter climate over the past 4,500 years. In comparing my paleoecological records to the archaeological record of the area it appears that humans were affected by changes in their environment but, even in relatively small numbers, humans also influenced local ecosystems for the past 6,000 years. By building on our understanding of long-term climate change and long-term fluctuations in ecosystems and trophic dynamics of species in the North Pacific, and through considering humans in the ecological context, we can better understand present conditions in marine ecosystems.