External Organisations

  • University of Copenhagen, Denmark
  • University of Tartu, Estonia
  • Trinity College Dublin, Ireland
  • University of Cambridge, United Kingdom

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The History of Marine Animal Populations (HMAP) is the historical component of the Census of Marine Life program (CoML), which is an international, multi-disciplinary project which will investigate biodiversity in the world’s oceans. HMAP’s long-term aim is to improve our historical understanding of ecosystem change and our ecological understanding of man’s role in changing marine ecosystems.

The long data series and time-specific snapshots of marine ecological conditions that are being generated are being used to provide input to contemporary ecological modelling in order to characterize and visualize variations in past ecosystems. Such visualizations and testing of ecological hypotheses will enhance the disciplines of history and ecology in seeking to explain long-term changes in marine animal populations and their ecosystems, especially those changes resulting from man’s activities.

Some key results from our earlier historical ecology work include reconstructions of extended time series of cod and sprat biomasses in the Baltic Sea which have enabled us to document how the relative importance of different ecosystem drivers (e. g., fishing, hydrographic variability, mammal predation, eutrophication) of biomass dynamics change and interact over time, and how eutrophication has affected forage fish production in the Baltic Sea. Ongoing work is evaluating and documenting the causes of long-term declines of a local herring population in the Baltic Sea and swordfish fisheries in coastal New England, Nova Scotia and Italy. Another key result is a recent consensus article by an ICES expert group on how historical ecology can contribute to fisheries and ecosystem management.

Because HMAP and CoML have ended, DTU Aqua’s work in this area continues with support from other projects and as contributions to new successor fora established in 2013-2015. These include the Oceans Past Initiative, ICES Study Group on the History of Fish and Fisheries and the EU COST program Oceans Past Platform (2015). DTU Aqua’s work will contribute to the development of new management and conservation policies by demonstrating the species compositions, sizes and distributions of animals that lived in the ocean during periods with less human impact than today, and how these biological properties have changed over time.

The project was coordinated by Trinity College, Ireland.


  • Research areas: Oceanography & Marine Populations and Ecosystem Dynamics
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ID: 2289710