I thought this was interesting, as it came across my screen right after our discussions of “ecological integrity” in the new planning rule. My hypothesis is that every twenty years or so the same “truths” are rediscovered..because the shifting and fragmenting nature of disciplines leaves scientists unfamiliar with previous thought on the same topic.
So here’s an article in Yale Environment 360. It fascinates me that this is reported as if Dan Botkin (yes, the same who spent time at Yale Forestry School) said much the same in his book Discordant Harmonies in 1992 (over 20 years ago). The use of the idea of “museum exhibit” reminded me of this paper by Connie Millar and Bill Libby in Fremontia in 1989, when they used the more colorful term “Disneyland”. Due to my disciplinary loyalty, the photo above is of Disneyland and not a museum.
Given the discussion we’ve just had about “ecological integrity,” here’s an interesting excerpt:
For instance, it calls into question the conventional view that ecosystems such as rainforests are complex machines, or super-organisms, that have emerged through a long process of co-evolution of species to fill ecological niches. But, if that is so, asks ecologist James Rosindell of Imperial College London, how come alien species are so good at invading other ecosystems, frequently becoming fully integrated neighbors?
Ecosystems begin to look a lot more accidental, random, and transient than niche theory would suggest. They are constantly being remade by fire and flood, disease, and the arrival of new species. They are a hodgepodge of native and alien species. This fits a rival model for how ecosystems work called “ecological fitting,” first articulated by the legendary U.S. ecologist Daniel Janzen of the University of Pennsylvania. He said that co-evolution is a bit-part player in ecosystems; most of the time, species muddle along and fit in as best they can.
Far from reaching some equilibrium state with niches filled, ecosystems have always been in a constant state of flux, says Stephen Jackson, of the Southwest Climate Science Center in Arizona, in Novel Ecosystems. “Change, including rapid and disruptive change, is a natural feature of the world.” Humans may have dramatically speeded that up, but novelty is the norm.
In that light, we need to look afresh at conservation priorities. Novel ecosystems cannot be dismissed as degraded versions of proper ecosystems, nor can alien species be demonized simply for not belonging. If novelty and change is the norm, Hobbs and colleagues ask, does it make sense for the growing business of ecosystem restoration to try and recreate static historic ecosystems? By doing that, you are not creating a functioning ecosystem; you are creating a museum exhibit that will require constant attention if it is to survive.
Gee, I said the same thing.. 😉 But of course those folks and I did not redefine “restoration.” Also, Pearce keeps using “virgin” inappropriately, in my view, as per my post in HCN here.