Shifting baselines to thresholds: Reframing exploitation in the marine environment

Lane M. Atmore*, Magie Aiken*, Fabricio Furni

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
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Current research on anthropogenic impacts on marine ecosystems often relies on the concept of a “baseline,” which aims to describe ecosystems prior to human contact. Recent research is increasingly showing that humans have been involved in marine ecosystems for much longer than previously understood. We propose a theoretical framework oriented around a system of “thresholds” referring to system-wide changes in human culture, ecosystem dynamics, and molecular evolution. The concept of the threshold allows conceptual space to account for the fluid nature of ecosystems throughout time while providing a critical framework for understanding drivers of ecosystem change. We highlight practical research approaches for exploring thresholds in the past and provide key insights for future adaptation to a changing world. To ensure ecological and societal goals for the future are met, it is critical that research efforts are contextualized into a framework that incorporates human society as integral to ecology and evolution.

Original languageEnglish
Article number742188
Number of pages15
JournalFrontiers in Marine Science
Publication statusPublished - 19-Nov-2021


  • ancient biomolecules
  • conservation
  • ecology
  • evolution
  • sustainability
  • thresholds

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