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11,500 y of human-clam relationships provide long-term context for intertidal management in the Salish Sea, British Columbia.


ABSTRACT: Historical ecology can provide insights into the long-term and complex relationships between humans and culturally important species and ecosystems, thereby extending baselines for modern management. We bring together paleoecological, archaeological, and modern clam records to explore the relationship between humans and butter clams (Saxidomus gigantea) throughout the Holocene in the northern Salish Sea of British Columbia, Canada. We compare butter clam size and growth patterns from different temporal, environmental, and cultural contexts spanning 11,500 y to present. Butter clam size and growth were restricted in early postglacial times but increased over the next few millennia. During the early-Late Holocene, humans took increasing advantage of robust clam populations and after 3.5 ka, began constructing clam gardens (intertidal rock-walled terraces). Environmental and cultural variables, including coarse substrate, stabilized sea surface temperature, and the presence of a clam garden wall, increased clam growth throughout the Holocene. Measurements of clams collected in active clam gardens and deposited in middens suggest that clam gardens as well as other mariculture activities enhanced clam production despite increased harvesting pressure. Since European contact, decline of traditional management practices and increases in industrial activities are associated with reduced clam size and growth similar to those of the early postglacial clams. Deeper-time baselines that more accurately represent clam population variability and allow us to assess magnitudes of change throughout time as well as the complex interactions among humans and clams are useful for modern marine resource management.

SUBMITTER: Toniello G 

PROVIDER: S-EPMC6825273 | BioStudies | 2019-01-01

REPOSITORIES: biostudies

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