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Research Funding Provided by: Australian Government
Research Funding Provided by
Australian Government

Australian Research Council

Environmental Futures Network
Environmental Futures Network
The University of Adelaide
North Terrace Campus
Darling Building
South Australia 5005

Phone: +61 8 8303 3952
Facsimile: +61 8 8303 4364

Project: An ecological history of Australia's temperate marine environments: accounting for the shifting baseline syndrome

CI(s)/Institution: Sean Connell, University of Adeliade, and Michael Graham, Moss Landing Marine Laboratories, California. (funding in year 1: $30,000)

CI(s)/Institution: Sean Connell, University of Adelaide, and Michael Graham, Moss Landing Marine Laboratories, California. (funding year 1: $30,000)

Page Content
· Aim/Brackground
· Publications
· Workshops


Theories of top-down control of temperate rocky coasts have been very successfully applied to the description and management of many of the world's coasts. There is, however, growing dissatisfaction with the uncritical application of this paradigm to reconstruct past histories, and forecast the future of marine resources. In Australia and New Zealand, there is tremendous concern over its application to coastal zoning (e.g. MPA management). Internationally, ecologists look to leadership from some of the best studied systems of the globe, yet substantial confusion emerges from deriving such expectations from some of the most intensely and well understood kelp forests (e.g. Southern California and recent high profile publications). The paradigm has created a difficulty for the context of current studies and their interpretation, but also their peer-review and publication. The workshop seeks to publish a refresh approach that equips the discipline a broader and more incisive understanding for future research and publication.

1. Spatially explicit map of regional extent of strong top-down control and regions for which this control is questionable.
2. Agree on a proposed framework for future research. This information would enable commensurable comparisons of coast to identify where traditional theory usefully describes coast, and where alternate theory is required.
3. Application of an agreed international approach to a local problem of recovering a lost baseline on the metropolitan coast of South Australia.


Outcomes (Year 1) Workshop
INTERNATIONAL OUTCOMES: Fifteen scientists have been invited to join an international workshop at Moss Landings Marine Laboratories (31st July - 2nd August, 2007) to reassess the uncritical use of the paradigm of top-down control of rocky temperate coasts that is used to reconstruct past histories, and forecast the future of marine resources . Scientists have been selected because of their expertise and experience in the ecology of subtidal coasts of key parts of the planet or theories that account for trophically structured system. The outcome of the workshop will be a publication that sets a new research agenda by equipping marine ecology with a broader framework for enquiry and more incisive understanding for future research and publication.

LOCAL OUTCOMES: Sean D. Connell has brought together all major stake holders of natural marine resources to collectively reconstruct the lost-baseline of South Australia's metropolitan coast. This includes government and non-government people. The major outcome centres on a first draft manuscript that is currently undergoing internal review (Recovering the lost baseline of a metropolitan kelp forest). This publication reconstructs past kelp forests of >30 years ago and identifies massive habitat loss. Sean Connell asked that the publication be funded via some of the major stakeholders (e.g. South Australian Research and Development Institute who has generously obliged). This progress relied on a workshop, independently circulated questionnaires, a review of archival logbook information, meetings with stakeholders, including representatives of recreational fisher-people.

IMMEDIATE OUTCOME: A publishable manuscript; a fundamental outcome will be the explicit recognition of the proportion and location of coasts requiring a shift in thinking and methodology (i.e. paradigm-shift). Highlight the most significant knowledge gaps limiting our understanding, and hindering the future sustainable management of these environments. Provide the discipline with an explicit framework that captures a broader model, and methodology that is more incisive for future research and publication.

LONGER-TERM OUTCOME: A further aim of this workshop will be to generate a big-picture research agenda for temperate marine environments to stimulate and provide direction for useful large-scale collaborative research programs. Ultimately, the aim is to provide a new generation of marine scientists and managers with fresh perspective and direction.

International participants (#ECR):
Sean D. Connell, University of Adelaide& Michael Graham, San Jose State University (leading CIs)
Bob Paine, University of Washington
Andrew Irving#, Brown University
Bernat Hereu, San Jose State University
Brian Kinlan, University of California, Santa Barbara
Jarrett Byrnes, University of California, Davis
John Erlandson, Oregon State University
Selena McMillan#, San Jose State University
Don Strong, University of California, Los Angeles
Lanny Mller, University of California, Los Angeles
Nick Shears, University of California, Santa Barbara
Alejandro Buschmann, Universidad de Los Lagos
David Lindburg, University of California, Berkeley


Connell, S. D., Russell, B. C., Turner, D. J., Shepherd, S. A., Kildae, T., Miller, D. J. & Cheshire, A. (in review) Recovering a lost baseline:missing kelp forests on a metropolitan coast.
This paper is a collaboration of all major scientific stake holders of natural marine resources of South Australa's rocky coast.