The understanding of fish communities' changes over the past centuries has important implications for conservation policy and marine resource management. However, reconstructing these changes is difficult because information on marine communities before the second half of the 20th century is, in most cases, anecdotal and merely qualitative. Therefore, historical qualitative records and modern quantitative data are not directly comparable, and their integration for long-term analyses is not straightforward. We developed a methodology that allows the coding of qualitative information provided by early naturalists into semi-quantitative information through an intercalibration with landing proportions. This approach allowed us to reconstruct and quantitatively analyze a 200-year-long time series of fish community structure indicators in the Northern Adriatic Sea (Mediterranean Sea). Our analysis provides evidence of long-term changes in fish community structure, including the decline of Chondrichthyes, large-sized and late-maturing species. This work highlights the importance of broadening the time-frame through which we look at marine ecosystem changes and provides a methodology to exploit, in a quantitative framework, historical qualitative sources. To the purpose, naturalists' eyewitness accounts proved to be useful for extending the analysis on fish community back in the past, well before the onset of fieldbased monitoring programs. © 2010 Fortibuoni et al.
Fortibuoni, T., Libralato, S., Raicevich, S., Giovanardi, O., & Solidoro, C. (2010). Coding early naturalists’ accounts into long-term fish community changes in the adriatic sea (1800-2000). PLoS ONE, 5(11). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0015502