Environmental Science

A Sea of Difference

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Science  05 Oct 2012:
Vol. 338, Issue 6103, pp. 19
DOI: 10.1126/science.338.6103.19-a
The Black SeaCREDIT: NASA

Large-scale anthropogenic impacts on the environment are often considered to be products of modern agricultural and industrial activity. It is becoming clearer, however, that humans have been agents of widespread environmental change for much longer than that. Through a combination of sedimentary, paleoenvironmental, and paleogenetic evidence, Giosan et al. chronicle how the biogeochemistry of the Black Sea has changed over the past 7500 years and how humans contributed to that. Surface salinity decreased and the delta of the Danube expanded over the past 2000 years, as sediments delivered by the Danube, the main tributary of the Black Sea, increased in volume because of the intensification of land use throughout its watershed. Over the past five to six centuries, greater nutrient fluxes resulting from rapid deforestation in Eastern Europe caused the proliferation of diatoms and dinoflagellates and changed the entire food web structure of the Black Sea. Thus, long before industrialization, the Black Sea was much different from the time before humans populated its shores.

Sci. Rep. 2, 10.1038/srep00582 (2012).

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