ABSTRACTSvalbard in the European Arctic has a well-documented history of natural resource exploitation. Since its discovery in 1596, the archipelago has witnessed phases of commercial whaling, sealing, fur hunting and fishing. Scientists, trophy hunters and miners have also added to the depletion of wildlife. The magnitude, scale and speed of the hunt, however, remain largely unknown. This paper collates historical catch data of five selected species of game animal from published written and archaeological sources. These species include the bowhead whale, the Atlantic walrus, the polar bear, the Arctic fox and the Svalbard reindeer. The paper thereby aims to quantify the anthropogenic pressure on Svalbard's ecosystems over more than four centuries. This quantification is only moderately successful. The incomplete record prevents the use of this catch data as a suitable indicator of human-induced ecosystem change. To advance the state of knowledge, the paper recommends a return to the primary sources across international archives, libraries and museum collections, and outlines steps with which to arrive at the much needed time-depth in Svalbard historical ecology.
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