October 20, 2010, 4:00 PM, DeMeritt Hall 112
RUNNING SILVER: "Shifting Baselines" and the decline of freshwater-sea fishes
Speaker: John Waldman, Professor of Biology, Queen's College, City University of New York
Date: October 20, 2010 Time: 4:00 - 5:00 PM Place: Handly Auditorium, De Meritt Hall 112
Lecture Summary: Alewives, shad, salmon, sturgeon and 18 other diadromous fish species, which migrate between marine- and freshwater to spawn, once made rivers and streams “run silver” with their abundance around the North Atlantic basin, a region known for pronounced declines in fisheries for many marine species. While numerous narrative accounts from Europe and North America describe this profusion in detail, their stories seem scarcely credible today. Catch data are sparse except for a few high value forms, yet the data corroborate the stories. For thirty-one time series, relative abundances of diadromous fish had dropped to between 01- and 05% of historic highs, most reaching their lowest levels as observations approached the present. Many populations of these fish persist at sharply reduced levels, but all species have suffered local extirpations, decreasing genetic diversity, and many are now classified as threatened or endangered. Habitat loss (especially damming), overfishing, pollution, and increasingly, climate change have all contributed to dramatic declines from early baselines. Although such losses are often placed within a “shifting baselines” framework, the societal context may run even deeper, reflecting human alienation from the natural world, an “ecosocial anomie.” Whether efforts to reestablish the presence and abundance of these fishes in historic watersheds represents a nascent “ecosocial accord” is open to debate.
Biography: John Waldman is professor of biology at Queens College, City University of New York. Prior to this appointment in 2004, he was employed for 20 years by the Hudson River Foundation for Science and Environmental Research. He received his Ph.D. in 1986 from the Joint Program in Evolutionary Biology between the American Museum of Natural History and the City University of New York. His research interests focus on the ecology and evolution of fishes, particularly diadromous forms, urban aquatic environments, and historical ecology. He also an occasional contributor to the New York Times and is author of several popular books, including Heartbeats in the Muck: The History, Sea Life, and Environment of New York Harbor. He is writing a book on the historical ecology of North Atlantic diadromous fishes.
ALEWIVES RUNNING SILVER