International Journal of Earth Sciences

, Volume 99, Issue 8, pp 1763–1772 | Cite as

A new method in palaeoecology: fish community structure indicates environmental changes

  • Ulrich SchmölckeEmail author
  • Kenneth Ritchie
Original Paper


A new method to reconstruct aquatic palaeoenvironments is presented. It is based on a non-metrical ‘fish environment reconstruction index’ (FERI), calculated for the total fish community recorded at an archaeological site. As an example, a FERI is generated for the Baltic Sea using the ecological requirements of northern European fish species. The present study evaluates the proposed method by using fish bone assemblages from a region (the middle Holocene Baltic Sea coast) with well-studied hydrographic history. The bones originate from consecutive human riparian and coastal settlements of hunter-gatherers. The results obtained for the parameters salinity and sediment structure correlate well with geological knowledge. The new method shows a successive change from freshwater to brackish and finally to nearly marine conditions before, during, and towards the end of the marine transgression that created the present Baltic Sea. Additionally, a shift in the sediment structure from muddy to sandy/rocky conditions is recognisable.


Coastal development Succession Habitat indicator Littorina transgression Holocene Baltic Sea 



We are grateful to H. Lübke and S. Hartz for their detailed information about the Mesolithic settlements, to B. Gustafsson and S. Wastegård for information about the Holocene salinity of the Baltic Sea, and to E. A. Nikulina for valuable comments and discussions. The German Research Foundation (DFG) supported parts of the research.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Baltic and Scandinavian ArchaeologySchloss GottorfSchleswigGermany

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