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Data stewardship scholarship project

Q-MARE was awarded a Data Stewardship Scholarship in May 2023.

Data steward

Felicitas ten Brink


Stark contrast exists between exploited and unexploited marine ecosystems. In addition, climate change has radically impacted the marine environment and the organisms living in it, creating a complex picture of ecosystem change. The predictive power of models that might be used to understand and manage future change is hampered by the difficulty of disentangling the impacts (climate change, overfishing, pollution, habitat deterioration) of the different anthropogenic activities, which may be attributed to: a) the scarcity and fragmented nature of long-term baseline data; and b) the limited knowledge of the impacts of natural, pre-industrial climate change beyond those on phytoplankton, and small zooplankton. Research on Quaternary marine ecosystem change has recently increased with several concurrently running large international projects which all seek to leverage geohistorical records to resolve these issues targeting different geographic regions, such as 4-OCEANS, PALEOWEB, TRADITION, SEACHANGE and MERMAID.

Disentangling anthropogenic effects on ecosystems from the effects of natural fluctuations and climate-derived processes requires long timescale data on change from paleontological, paleoclimatic, archaeological, and historical archives. Integrating such data is a significant challenge, because they are very diverse (e.g. historical documents, oral histories, archaeological remains, fossils, geochemical proxies) and employ a broad range of terminologies, perspectives, approaches, and assumptions. One of the aims of Q-MARE is to provide guidelines for the integration and analysis of data from different disciplines (historical ecology, archaeology and conservation paleobiology) and timescales (daily to millennial). We believe that the current inability to smoothly combine data from these diverse sources is one of the obstacles to disentangling human and climate impacts.

The Q-MARE working group’s objectives are to review and synthesize data on climate and human impacts on marine ecosystems in the pre-industrial Holocene and Pleistocene with the aim of identifying knowledge gaps and promoting the value and use of pre-industrial data for the management of marine living resources. Together with our collaborators, we are currently in the process of assembling a database of pre-industrial Holocene and Pleistocene records so that we may pinpoint when humans began to have a significant impact on the marine environment.


The database produced will be deposited in the Publishing Network for Geoscientific and Environmental Data PANGAEA ( We will use the CC-BY: Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license for reuse of the generated data and metadata.

Additionally, all data used in our study will be deposited in a FAIR-approved repository. This project is multidisciplinary and combines datasets of various natures (e.g., fossils, sediment cores, fisheries catch), some of which have already been uploaded to the field's preferred repository (i.e., OBIS, BioTIME, NEOTOMA, PANGAEA) and received unique DOIs.

The database produced by Q-MARE will include all metadata and will be deposited in PANGAEA. Furthermore, any creation of original data or integration of multidisciplinary data that will be used in our analyses will be deposited in PANGAEA to provide full reproducibility.

Final products

•   A database of pre-industrial Holocene and Pleistocene fossil/death assemblages of marine vertebrates and invertebrates, and archaeological/historical records that can be used to identify when human started to significantly impact marine resources uploaded on PANGAEA following the template.
•   Data paper submitted to the journal Earth System Science Data.
•   Review paper on pre-industrial climate and human impacts on marine ecosystems.
•   Code and guidelines (to accompany the database): these will describe the data structure, contents, layout and any classification system(s) used, as well as guidance on what the data are with their context (for a multidisciplinary audience), and information on how the data were compiled (e.g. sources, expert input) and their associated metadata.