Ideas and perspectives: Human impacts alter the marine fossil record
Abstract. The youngest fossil record is a crucial source of data documenting the recent history of marine ecosystems and their long-term alteration by humans. However, human activities that reshape communities and habitats also alter sedimentary and biological processes that control the formation of the sedimentary archives recording those impacts. These diverse physical, geochemical, and biological disturbances include changes in sediment fluxes due to the alteration of alluvial and coastal landscapes, seabed disturbance by bottom trawling and ship traffic, ocean acidification and deoxygenation, removal of native species, and introduction of invasive ecosystem engineers. These novel processes modify sedimentation rates, depth and intensity of sediment mixing, pore water saturation state, and preservation potential of skeletal remains – the parameters controlling the completeness and spatiotemporal resolution of the fossil record. We argue that humans have become a major force transforming the nature of the marine fossil record in ways that can both impede and improve our ability to reconstruct past ecological and climate dynamics. A better understanding of the feedback between human impacts on ecosystem processes and their preservation in the marine fossil record offers new research opportunities and novel tools for interpreting geohistorical archives of the ongoing anthropogenic transformation of the coastal ocean.
Status: open (until 10 Mar 2024)
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