Historical Assessment

This page deals with historical assessment, the task of reconstructing the long-term dynamics of a social-ecological systems (SES) over time, from centuries to millennia. The content on this page discusses methods related to data obtained from sediment cores, archaeological/ zooarchaeological materials, dendrochronology /sclerochronology, land surveys, historical aerial photography, satellite remote sensing, documentary sources, governmental data, interviews and oral histories.

The Chapter summary video gives a brief introduction and summary of this group of methods, what SES problems/questions they are useful for, and key resources needed to conduct the methods. The methods video/s introduce specific methods, including their origin and broad purpose, what SES problems/questions the specific method is useful for, examples of the method in use and key resources needed. The Case Studies demonstrate the method in action in more detail, including an introduction to the context and issue, how the method was used, the outcomes of the process and the challenges of implementing the method. The labs/activities give an example of a teaching activity relating to this group of methods, including the objectives of the activity, resources needed, steps to follow and outcomes/evaluation options.

More details can be found in Chapter 25 of the Routledge Handbook of Research Methods for Social-Ecological Systems.

Chapter summary:

This video introduces the concept of Historical Assessment.

Method Summaries

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Case Studies

Lab teaching/ activity

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Key Publications related to Historical Assessment:
  • Crumley, C.L. 1994. Historical Ecology: Cultural Knowledge and Changing Landscapes. Seattle: University of Washington Press.
  • Kittinger J.N., L. McClenachan, K. Gedan, and L. Blight, eds. 2015. Marine Historical Ecology in Conservation. Applying the Past to Manage for the Future. San Francisco: University of California Press.
  • Máñez, K.S., and B. Poulsen. ‘Of Seascapes and People: Multiple Perspectives on Oceans Past.’ Perspectives on Oceans Past 1–10. doi:10.1007/978-94-017–7496-3_1.
  • Morgan, J.L., S.E. Gergel, and N.C. Coops. 2010. ‘Aerial Photography: A Rapidly Evolving Tool for Ecological Management.’ BioScience 60(1): 47–59. doi:10.1525/bio.2010.60.1.9.
  • Tomscha, S.A., I.J. Sutherland, D. Renard, S.E. Gergel, J.M. Rhemtulla, E.M.  Bennett, L.D. Daniels, I.M.S. Eddy, and E.E. Clark. 2016. ‘A Guide to Historical Data Sets for Reconstructing Ecosystem Service Change over Time.’ BioScience 66(9): 747–762. doi.org/10.1093/biosci/biw086