A Marquesan coral reef (French Polynesia) in historical context: an integrated socio-ecological approach

Authors

  • Shankar Aswani,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Anthropology and Interdepartmental Graduate Program in Marine Science, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA, 93106-3210, USA
    • Department of Anthropology and Interdepartmental Graduate Program in Marine Science, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA, 93106-3210, USA
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  • Melinda S. Allen

    1. Department of Anthropology, University of Auckland, Private Bag 92019, Auckland, New Zealand
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Abstract

  • 1.Marine biologists are increasingly aware of the impact that even small human populations can have on coral reefs around the world, while conservationists and fisheries managers have a growing appreciation of the importance of culturally informed management strategies in coral reef conservation efforts. Despite these recognitions, however, examples of integrated field studies are limited.
  • 2.In this paper evidence from various disciplines is used to study the interaction between humans and one of the largest reefs in the Marquesas Islands, at Anaho Bay, Nuku Hiva Island, with the aim of assessing possible anthropogenic impacts over time.
  • 3.First, it reports on a marine biological survey of the benthic substrates of the bay and the taxonomic composition and spatial distributions of the local fish species. Second, it draws on results from an ongoing archaeological study and integrates these with interviews of village elders to gain a historical perspective on the reef and potential human impacts.
  • 4.The biological results indicated that the reef is in a state of decline, although fish densities are moderately high. The archaeological evidence, in turn, demonstrates that human populations have occupied this valley for at least the last 700 years. Throughout this period marine resources have been an important source of both food and raw materials for tools. The archaeological study also highlights aspects of landscape change, both natural and human-induced, that probably have been detrimental to reef health.
  • 5.Using the combined biological and anthropological data, this paper considers the nexus of factors that have led to the current reef conditions and considers management issues for the future. Key in this regard are processes that have initiated erosion and soil run-off, and fluctuations in the local human populations.

Copyright © 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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