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Ancient clam gardens, traditional management portfolios, and the resilience of coupled human-ocean systems

Julia Jackley, Department of Archaeology, Simon Fraser University
Lindsay Gardner, School of Resource and Environmental Management, Simon Fraser University
Audrey F. Djunaedi, School of Resource and Environmental Management, Simon Fraser University
Anne K. Salomon, School of Resource and Environmental Management, Simon Fraser University

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5751/ES-08747-210420

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Abstract

Indigenous communities have actively managed their environments for millennia using a diversity of resource use and conservation strategies. Clam gardens, ancient rock-walled intertidal beach terraces, represent one example of an early mariculture technology that may have been used to improve food security and confer resilience to coupled human-ocean systems. We surveyed a coastal landscape for evidence of past resource use and management to gain insight into ancient resource stewardship practices on the central coast of British Columbia, Canada. We found that clam gardens are embedded within a diverse portfolio of resource use and management strategies and were likely one component of a larger, complex resource management system. We compared clam diversity, density, recruitment, and biomass in three clam gardens and three unmodified nonwalled beaches. Evidence suggests that butter clams (Saxidomus gigantea) had 1.96 times the biomass and 2.44 times the density in clam gardens relative to unmodified beaches. This was due to a reduction in beach slope and thus an increase in the optimal tidal range where clams grow and survive best. The most pronounced differences in butter clam density between nonwalled beaches and clam gardens were found at high tidal elevations at the top of the beach. Finally, clam recruits (0.5-2 mm in length) tended to be greater in clam gardens compared to nonwalled beaches and may be attributed to the addition of shell hash by ancient people, which remains on the landscape today. As part of a broader social-ecological system, clam garden sites were among several modifications made by humans that collectively may have conferred resilience to past communities by providing reliable and diverse access to food resources.

Key words

ancient shellfish mariculture; bivalves; clam gardens; management portfolio; resilience; resource management; traditional marine management

Copyright © 2016 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article  is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.  You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087