A new science of historical ecology is emerging, particularly in the USA and in special relation to coastal wetlands that are globally considered to be endangered habitats. The science collates data on modern habitats and merges these with information gleaned from charts, maps, photographs and other sources of historical information to produce 'a real picture' of ecological change. Having established what has changed, reasons are sought for how and why.
Such an approach allows us to understand more fully our ecological heritage and for decision makers and managers to plan better for restoration conservation so as to allow communities to recreate lost, remnant, or vestigial habitats, even ecosystems – notably, again, wetlands.
The Historical Ecology of the River Arun and Its Beaches at Littlehampton, West Sussex is intended, through an examination of the history and coastal ecology of a virtually unstudied southern English Downland river, its coastal port and associated beaches, to act as a general model to determine if historical ecology can reveal protection, conservation and, possibly, restoration, priorities. At least, however, it may also help one local coastal town community to understand better its historical and ecological heritage. It may, hopefully, also stimulate other township communities to examine their historical heritage and ecology in a new way. And, thereby, come to a new appreciation of what they have.
Brian Morton spent virtually his entire academic career at the University of Hong Kong, retiring in 2003 as Emeritus Professor of Marine Ecology. He was also Founding Director of the Swire Institute of Marine Science of the University of Hong Kong from 1989-2003. In 1997 he was made a Knight (Ridder) in the Order of the Golden Ark The Netherlands) for contributions to environmental education; in 1999 he was awarded an OBE for contributions to marine ecology in southern China and in 2004 was sole recipient of the Duke of Edinburgh Conservation Gold Medal for contributions to marine conservation. He has been awarded Honorary Life Memberships of the Malacological Society of London (1992), the Pacific Science Association (1993) and the Marine Biological Association of Hong Kong (2002) for contributions to Malacology, Pacific Marine Science and Marine Biology in Hong Kong, respectively, and was elected to the Global 500 Roll of Honour by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) (1989). Professor Morton now lives in West Sussex and continues with his research and writing.