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Human impact felt on Black Sea long before industrial era
Date:9/4/2012

tions, but 90 percent of the dinoflagellate species do not produce such diagnostic resting stages, but their DNA remains in the fossil record."

His analysis found that major phytoplankton groups in the Black Sea changed drastically over the last millennium. Beginning about 500 years ago, a rise in diatoms suggests there was more silicate available in the Black Sea. The team at WHOI also found an increase in the abundance of dinoflagellate DNA beginning about 650 years ago. Both of these changes are consistent with increased nutrient availability that would occur as a result of human activity the clearing of forests and increased agriculture. Interestingly, a significant drop in diatom DNA occurred in recent times when more recent human activity the damming of the rivers entered the scene.

The final piece of the picture comes from a model developed by Jed Kaplan, a scientist at Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne in Switzerland. Kaplan looked at the expansion of lands cleared for agriculture in the Danube watershed as population grew and farming technology became more advanced over the last 7000 years ago. His findings agree very well with recently published studies of the relative abundance of grass pollen over tree pollen and the appearance of charcoal in the sediment record from clearing large swaths of trees by burning. All of these land signals point to human deforestation and increased agriculture.

The model suggests that deforestation of the lower basin of the Danube rapidly accelerated over the last millennium and especially in the last 500 years. In contrast in the western sector of the watershed, farther from the Black Sea, deforestation was already substantial as the Roman Empire expanded there.

"This story started by looking at how Danube River built its delta in the Black Sea," says Giosan. "But together these indicators tell a story of changing land use that ultimately changed the ecosystem of an entire sea
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Contact: WHOI Media Relations
media@whoi.edu
508-289-3340
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
Source:Eurekalert  

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