Shifting Baselines

Home Forums Due October 8 by 11:59pm Shifting Baselines

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    Shifting baselines refers to how our “baselines” are often framed by personal anecdotes and not often able to see the entire historical trend. It means that what we currently think of as historic levels (such as through traditional ecological knowledge [T.E.K.], personal family or first hand experience, etc) may not in fact be a long term average or accurately reflecting the population trends of species. If we are to judge populations only from the points at which we started counting their abundance, we may be missing giant chunks of information regarding population trends that could be vital to sustainably manage a species. This happened to northern cod when we used “baselines” that didn’t encompass enough of the historical population information, meaning we didn’t look far enough back to get a true understanding of what was happening to the populations. This gives false expectations of populations, and when you’re trying to manage a population without seeing the whole picture, it makes it easy to mismanage and plunge populations into unsustainable numbers. We can avoid falling into this trap by ensuring that we have as much information as possible before making management decisions, and reaching out to indigenous populations for their T.E.K. or using other ways to scientifically estimate the historic trends and population levels.

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