Recent archaeological research conducted by the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona (UAB), in collaboration with universities in Germany and Brazil, has shed light on the significant decline of marine ecosystems in the South Atlantic Ocean. The study, published in the journal PLoS ONE, reveals that overfishing and habitat degradation have played a crucial role in this alarming situation.
By analyzing fish remains from archaeological sites in Brazil and comparing them with present-day fish populations, the researchers discovered a striking decrease in various species, with sharks and rays being particularly affected. The findings strongly suggest that the escalating human impacts, such as overfishing and habitat degradation, over the past few decades have had a detrimental effect on marine biodiversity.
In the past, indigenous communities residing along the southern coast of Brazil enjoyed thriving marine ecosystems abundant with diverse fish species, including large top predators. These ecosystems provided essential resources for food security and supported the sustainable exploitation of marine life using simple fishing technology for thousands of years.
Thiago Fossile, the lead author of the study and a researcher at UAB, emphasizes the growing anthropogenic pressures faced by aquatic fauna in Brazil. Many of the species documented in archaeological sites are now endangered, while data on the distribution and abundance of other species remain insufficient. By utilizing archaeological data, researchers can gain insights into these lost environments and redefine conservation strategies.
The study highlights the importance of hundreds of archaeological sites in providing valuable information on past biodiversity. This knowledge contributes to ongoing discussions on fisheries management and conservation. According to Andre Colonese, a senior author of the study, coastal and marine ecosystems have sustained subsistence fisheries along the Brazilian coast for thousands of years.
Mariana Bender, a co-author from the Universidade Federal de Santa Maria, emphasizes the significance of archaeological sites in understanding the impacts of ancient human populations on fish biodiversity. The research reveals evidence of the long-standing exploitation of large top predators and the recent shift in fisheries toward lower trophic levels. This pattern has been occurring for thousands of years, indicating the need for long-term conservation efforts.
Co-author Dione Bandeira from the Universidade da Regiao de Joinville emphasizes the importance of indigenous environmental stewardship as a model for sustainable resource utilization. Such practices play a crucial role in conserving biodiversity in tropical and subtropical regions of South America. Additionally, the study underscores the valuable insights provided by archaeological faunal remains regarding the origins and evolution of these sustainable practices.
The research serves as a wake-up call, urging immediate action to address overfishing and habitat degradation in the South Atlantic Ocean. By learning from past ecosystems and indigenous practices, there is hope for revitalizing and conserving these once thriving marine areas for future generations.