Marine & Environmental Sciences Faculty Proceedings, Presentations, Speeches, Lectures


Reconstructing Marine Resource Usage and Trophic Dynamics at Mink Island Site (XMK-030)

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SEARCH Open Science Meeting, Seattle, Washington, October 27-30, 2003

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The stable isotope signatures of marine vertebrates and seabirds recovered from this archaeological site offer excellent data on past environmental and ecological conditions over a 7000 year period. Alaska coastal sites contain well-preserved archaeofauna and abundant deposits of marine shellfish. Ocean productivity is recorded in the organic carbon content preserved in marine and freshwater sediments as well as in the organic matrix of marine vertebrate remains. Stable carbon and nitrogen isotopes (d13C and d15N) derived from bone collagen provide information about changes in food web dynamics, productivity levels, and thus, ecosystem changes. Any changes in the length of the marine food web induced by climate change or food web interactions will be exhibited in the d15N in the bone collagen of marine vertebrates. Changes in marine resource abundance are reconstructed from calculation of relative abundances of marine species in archaeological and other sedimentary deposits. The changes are, in turn, related to perturbations in the natural system.

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