From forest fires to fisheries management: Anthropology, conservation biology, and historical ecology


  • Todd J. Braje,

    Corresponding author
    1. San Diego State University, Department of Anthropology, College of Arts and Letters, San Diego, CA
    • San Diego State University, Department of Anthropology, College of Arts and Letters, 5500 Campanile Drive, San Diego, CA 92182-6040, Tel: 619-594-4175, Fax: 619-594-1150, Email:

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  • Torben C. Rick

    1. Curator of North American Archaeology, Program in Human Ecology and Archaeobiology, Department of Anthropology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.
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  • Todd J. Braje is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at San Diego State University. His research centers on the archeology of maritime societies along the North American Pacific Coast and the application of historical ecology to modern fisheries management. Together with Torben Rick, Braje recently edited the volume Human Impacts on Seals, Sea Lions, and Sea Otters: Integrating Archaeology and Ecology in the Northeast Pacific.

  • Torben C. Rick is Curator of North American Archaeology at the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, and co-editor of the Journal of Island and Coastal Archaeology. His work focuses on the interactions of ancient people with coastal and terrestrial ecosystems from southern California to the Chesapeake Bay. Rick is also co-editor of the recent volume Human Impacts on Ancient Marine Ecosystems: A Global Perspective.


Human-environmental relationships have long been of interest to a variety of scientists, including ecologists, biologists, anthropologists, and many others.[1, 2] In anthropology, this interest was especially prevalent among cultural ecologists of the 1970s and earlier, who tended to explain culture as the result of techno-environmental constraints.[3] More recently researchers have used historical ecology, an approach that focuses on the long-term dialectical relationship between humans and their environments, as well as long-term prehuman ecological datasets.[4-7] An important contribution of anthropology to historical ecology is that anthropological datasets dealing with ethnohistory, traditional ecological knowledge, and human skeletal analysis, as well as archeological datasets on faunal and floral remains, artifacts, geochemistry, and stratigraphic analysis, provide a deep time perspective (across decades, centuries, and millennia) on the evolution of ecosystems and the place of people in those larger systems. Historical ecological data also have an applied component that can provide important information on the relative abundances of flora and fauna, changes in biogeography, alternations in food webs, landscape evolution, and much more.