Multicentury perspective assessing the sustainability of the historical harvest of seaducks

One of the big challenges in managing wildlife populations is that we often do not know what historic or “baseline” numbers of the species might have been. Instead, we only can estimate how many were around when we started counting, and we can rely on local ecological knowledge, but we often lack quantitative measures. In a landmark study in the Canadian Arctic, a collaborative research team used paleolimnological techniques to analyze sediments in ponds on eider duck nesting islands; most of those islands around southern Baffin Island, and used a control location at Dr. Mark Mallory’s (Biology, Canada Research Chair) field site in the high Arctic. From these ponds they measured various chemical proxies of bird abundance dating back several hundred years, and were able to show that in the southern part of the range, eider duck numbers declined markedly once Canadian Inuit were concentrated in communities along Hudson Strait, and especially once hunting in Greenland increased.

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