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Research Themes

Historical and ecological connections in coastal landscapes

Description Personnel Products Related Data Show All
First Coast Survey Map (1871) of the study area of UCSB Campus and Isla Vista
First Coast Survey Map (1871) of the study area of UCSB Campus and Isla Vista

The loss of historical and ecological connections in landscapes is particularly evident in the coastal zone, where an ever-increasing proportion of the world population dwells. The inherent dynamism of coastal environments makes documentation of change and the establishment of baseline conditions especially challenging. The disappearance of wetlands, native vegetation and wildlife, and the alteration of natural processes have greatly affected the ecology of remaining coastal zone habitats, while the historical introduction of numerous species of plants and animals has transformed much of the open landscape. At the same time, cultural and historic structures and land uses have vanished through modern development, change and decay.

As the goal of historic preservation has generally been to fix a historical moment rather than to acknowledge change, so ecological restoration has often sought to restore a landscape to a particular reference state. However, since coastal landscapes embody highly dynamic processes rather than a steady state, what should the goals of restoration be? Our study considers the landscape as a narrative that provides evidence of historical and ecological processes and connections that can be used to guide restoration of the natural dynamics of coastal ecosystems.

We are assembling the ecological and cultural history of a small fragment of the southern California coast, part of the Santa Barbara Coastal LTER, with the goal of developing a model approach for informing restoration and preservation efforts. The integration of historical methods and values into restoration ecology and conservation, as well as the integration of ecological values into environmental history are objectives of our case study. The study coastline offers a wide variety of habitats including sandy beaches, dunes, rocky tidepools, kelp forests, cliffs, a saltwater slough, coastal mesas, freshwater marshes and vernal pools. It also includes a long human history. The setting is on the edge of a highly urbanized and quickly developing area, a liminal space that is a literal and symbolic borderland. Our comparisons utilize the rich fossil, archeological, historical and modern ecological information for this coastal site to evaluate landscape level changes occurring on the scale of tens of thousands to tens of years. Documenting change in this dynamic environment is a multi-disciplinary process, requiring a wide variety of sources and inference. Our objectives are to provide historical and ecological context for a dynamic coastal landscape that can be used to inform ecological restoration goals and to provide a model in which historical and ecological features and dynamics of the landscape are integral components of the process of environmental and cultural restoration, conservation and preservation. This type of approach may become increasingly relevant in the face of anticipated impacts of global climate change on coastal ecosystems.

Investigators

Jenifer E. Dugan
j_dugan@lifesci.ucsb.edu
Michael Glassow
Anita Guerrini
anita.guerrini@oregonstate.edu
David M. Hubbard
hubbard@lifesci.ucsb.edu
Peter Neushul
David Revell
Beverly Swartzberg

Graduate Students

Donald Burnette
2007 - present
Stephen Cory
Karinna Hurley
Jill Jensen
Dusty McKensie
Historic dovecote at Coal Oil Point
Historic dovecote at Coal Oil Point

Publications

Guerrini, A, J. E. Dugan. 2009. Coastal Dynamics: Toward informing ecological restoration in a coastal context. Pp 131-142, In: Restoration and History: The Search for a Usable Environmental Past (ed. M. Hall) Routledge Studies in Modern History, Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group, Oxford. 348 pp. (sbc-id: 409)

Guerrini, A. 2010. The story of the Campbells: from Montecito to Goleta and back. Montecito Magazine Spring-Summer 2010, 58-66. (sbc-id:648)

Guerrini, A. 2009. The Trouble with Plovers. in New Visions of Nature: Complexity and Authenticity, pp 75-89. Keulartz, J., M. Drenthen, and J. D. Proctor, eds. Springer (sbc-id: 1003)

Hubbard, D. M., J. E. Dugan, N. K. Schooler and S. Viola. Local extirpations and regional declines of endemic upper beach invertebrates in southern California. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science. (sbc-id: 904)

Images

First Coast Survey Map (1871) of the study area of UCSB Campus and Isla Vista

First Coast Survey Map (1871) of the study area of UCSB Campus and Isla Vista

1986 aerial view of the study area

1986 aerial view of the study area

Pier-based oil extraction in the 1930s on the Ellwood coastline

Pier-based oil extraction in the 1930s on the Ellwood coastline

Recent Google Earth image of the study area

Recent Google Earth image of the study  area

Historic dovecote at Coal Oil Point

Historic dovecote at Coal Oil Point

Aerial photo of Santa Barbara Harbor, early-mid 20th century

Aerial photo of Santa Barbara Harbor, early-mid 20th century

SBC Data Catalog