The value of paleoecology as an aid to monitoring ecosystems and landscapes, chiefly with reference to North America

Eville Gorham, Grace S. Brush, Lisa J. Graumlich, Michael L. Rosenzweig, Arthur H. Johnson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Paleoecology attempts to reconstruct past plant and animal communities and their physical and chemical environments. The article discusses the accuracy of paleoecological reconstructions and the utility of paleoecological studies in describing the characteristics of ecosystems and landscapes before and after natural or human disturbances, patterns of recovery from disturbance, the nature and magnitude of natural variability, the stability of past ecosystems, and differences in the effects of natural versus human disturbances. Brief examples are then provided of the application of paleoecology to study environmental problems (climate change, lake acidification, cultural eutrophication, and biodiversity loss). Also discussed is the usefulness of paleoecology in anticipating ecological "surprises," particularly climatic anomalies. The authors conclude that paleoecological analyses are of great value in providing the necessary background information for designing environmental monitoring programs and interpreting the data they generate.
Original languageUndefined/Unknown
Pages (from-to)99-126
Number of pages28
JournalEnvironmental Reviews
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2001


  • Paleological aspects of peatland ecology and biogeochemistry

Cite this