GSA Annual Meeting in Denver, Colorado, USA - 2016

Paper No. 107-12
Presentation Time: 11:05 AM


SMITH, Jansen A., Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14850, DURHAM, Stephen R., Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853 and DIETL, Gregory P., Paleontological Research Institution, 1259 Trumansburg Road, Ithaca, NY 14850,

Marine conservation biologists increasingly recognize the value of long-term data and the temporal context they can provide for modern ecosystems. Such data are also available from paleontology (i.e., conservation paleobiology), but the enormous potential for integration of geohistorical records with neontological data remains challenging. The lack of a common language for data integration and a tendency in each field to measure different variables, at scales that may differ by orders of magnitude, make integration difficult. To better understand how conservation paleobiology can maximize its potential, we conducted a survey of marine conservation biologists working in the United States.

The respondent population included 90 marine conservation biologists from a variety of workplaces (e.g., governmental, academic) and experience levels (<5 years to >25 years). Survey responses indicate that our fields share common conservation goals (e.g., conservation of biodiversity and ecosystem services) and use long-term data in similar ways (e.g., establish baselines, elucidate trends and patterns), but respondents mostly considered “long term” to refer to decadal timescales and the most commonly mentioned long-term data sources were modern observations (i.e., monitoring). Interestingly, respondents highlighted climate change as the most important environmental stressor facing marine ecosystems, although their other responses suggested they have few data options on the timescales (i.e., centuries and longer) necessary to study its effects. Respondents commonly mentioned this lack of data on longer timescales, poor communication, and insufficient funding as barriers to the application of long-term data.

These results highlight significant opportunities for conservation paleobiologists, particularly through our ability to provide data on longer timescales (i.e., centuries and longer) to help marine conservation biologists understand biotic responses to a variety of important environmental stressors, including climate change. Recognizing the specific needs of the marine conservation community that we can help address, will also aid communication between disciplines to help make the integration of our disciplines a reality.