150 years of anthropogenic impact on coastal and ocean ecosystems in Brazil revealed by historical newspapers

Santiago Sandoval Gallardo, Thiago Fossile, Dannieli Firme Herbst, Alpina Begossi, Luiz Geraldo Silva, André Carlo Colonese*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)
2 Downloads (Pure)


Human impact on coastal ecosystems is one of the greatest environmental threats of our times. An understanding of the scale and magnitude of species and habitat degradation requires a long-term perspective that incorporates historical information from a range of sources, including local newspapers. Here we provide a novel contribution to the historical ecology of marine organisms along the Brazilian coast by exploring evidence of anthropogenic impacts in digitized historical newspapers spanning 167 years, available from the Brazilian Digital Newspapers and Periodicals Library. Using the keyword pesca we analyzed over seven thousand matches published in 26 newspapers between 1849 and 2016 in the state of Santa Catarina, one of the largest fish producing territories in Brazil. We found evidence of anthropogenic impacts involving overfishing and bycatch as early as the 19th century, well before the commencement of scientific studies and collection of fisheries landing data in the region. Impacts were exacerbated by the expansion of commercial fishing beginning in 1930, a process that seemingly increased competition for resources, while from 1980 onward anthropogenic impacts were mostly reported in relation to habitat degradation due to urbanization (including tourism) and industrialization. The results reveal that historical newspapers are valuable sources of information on local stakeholder perceptions of environmental and resource changes, and thus can provide a deeper temporal perspective to studies involving local, traditional-citizen knowledge in conservation and management actions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105662
JournalOcean and Coastal Management
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2021


  • Atlantic forest coast of Brazil
  • Coastal fisheries
  • Historical newspapers
  • Human impact
  • Marine conservation


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