Mouvement, Abondance, Distribution


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Stagiaire Master M2 (fev - juin 2013)







Academic institution: Université Pierre et Marie Curie (Paris 6)

Encadrants : Ana RODRIGUES et Sophie MONSARRAT

Project M2: The shifting baseline of the diversity and abundance of marine mammals in South America and the Caribbean

Human activities now impact all marine ecosystems, from deep-sea to coral reefs, to remote islands to the open ocean, and their impact is accelerating . However, it is less appreciated that significant human impact on marine systems started millennia ago, because such change was gradual and with little recorded evidence. Indeed, the full scale of the cumulative human impact on marine systems has only recently began to be understood, as anecdotal historical records showed evidence of past seas of spectacular abundance, subsequently forgotten. This case of collective amnesia by the progressive adjustment to increasingly impoverished ecosystems has been termed the ‘shifting baseline’, and it can happen even just after one human generation. It affects not only our scientific and popular perception of what natural ecosystems look like in terms of species composition, abundance and ecology, it also narrows our perception of the options available for the future.

This project will investigate the impact of human exploitation on the spatial patterns of marine mammal diversity and on species population abundance in the coastal areas surrounding South America and in the Caribbean. In this region, the history of human impact on marine mammals has two distinct phases. Before European contact and colonisation, native Americans have harvested mainly species easily accessible from the coast, such as seals in their breeding colonies. Europeans brought technology capable of an industrial level exploitation of both seals and whales, including the capture of pelagic species. One species has been driven to extinction as the result of this exploitation but many others have suffered reductions in abundance and/or in their range.

This M2 project is part of the ANR MORSE project, which investigates the extent to which human impacts have affected marine systems, focusing on marine mammals as a case study.