Anthropocene Baselines: Assessing Change and Managing Biodiversity in Human-Dominated Aquatic Ecosystems

R. Keller Kopf, C. Max Finlayson, Paul Humphries, Neil C. Sims, Sally Hladyz

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Global ecosystems have shifted from historical conditions, but it is unclear from what baselines change should be assessed. Scientists and managers have increasingly accepted the impossibility of returning ecosystems to a "pristine" state; however, historical conditions remain the cornerstone for restoration and management. We explore the rationale behind the application of historical baselines to ecosystem management and propose Anthropocene baselines as a concept to provide an improved basis for the management of human-dominated ecosystems. The Anthropocene baselines concept emphasizes the conservation value of the remnants of historical ecosystems but confronts the reality that many ecosystems cannot - or will not - be restored to historical ranges of variability. In order to prevent further unwanted changes to biodiversity and ecosystem services, we suggest that the management of human-dominated ecosystems must move beyond historical constraints toward new points of reference dictated by social-ecological sustainability.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)798-811
Number of pages14
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 29 Jul 2015
Externally publishedYes


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