Natural history: an approach whose time has come, passed, and needs to be resurrected†

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Abstract

The development of our understanding of fish and other marine fauna, including my own over several decades, has proceeded from basic natural history to ecology and evolution, but we often need to return to natural history to address deficiencies in our attempts to manage fisheries, conserve habitats, and model ecosystems. This resurrection of natural history is still needed because of the complex life history of fish, and many other marine fauna, and the lack of appreciation of shifting baselines in marine environments. These inadequacies are especially evident when we try to address the effects of human influences, e.g. fishing, urbanization, and climate change relative to fisheries management and conservation. A solution lies in the rebirth of natural history studies, especially at “places” such as marine field stations. Long-term monitoring, especially, continues to provide critical insights. All of these approaches are limited by inadequate appreciation and, as a result, funding. The solutions are largely site and investigation specific but would be enhanced by a greater appreciation of the advantages of comprehensive, long-term studies in natural environments, especially with regard to the increasing worldwide emphasis on conservation and habitat restoration.

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