Gulf of Maine Coastal Paleoecology

Historically, the Gulf of Maine (GoM) was one of the world’s most productive fishing grounds.  Beginning in the early seventeenth century, its coastal codfish stocks attracted European colonists including the Pilgrims at Plymouth, Massachusetts on the shores of Cape Cod.  Today, however, Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) and virtually all large-bodied fishes are rare and “ecologically extinct” from coastal zones in the GoM.

The focus of this research project was to evaluate the degree to which nearshore ecosystem dynamics have shifted over the last 4,000 years, and how these changes may have impacted the GoM fish stocks.  We use the stable carbon (C), nitrogen (N) and sulfur (S) isotopes preserved in tissues of ancient marine organisms to assess long-term trends in nearshore primary production, trophic connectivity, and foodweb dynamics.

This project was funding by the National Science Foundation, Biological Oceanography and was titled: RUI: Changes in Baseline Conditions in Gulf of Maine Coastal Ecosystems over the Last 4,000 Years (PI B. Johnson, co-PIs W. Ambrose and B. Bourque).

Questions? Contact Bev Johnson (