What does it take to save a species in the 21st century? The specter of climate change, with predicted losses to biodiversity as high as 35 percent, has some scientists and managers considering taking their conservation strategies on the road.
Managed relocation (MR) is literally the physical relocation of endangered or threatened species of plants and animals, by humans, to new, and foreign geographical climes. It addresses the concern that climate shifts may make many species' historical ranges environmentally inhospitable, and that the rapid speed of change and habitat fragmentation will prevent them from adapting to these new conditions or moving themselves. And while conservationists argue that the practice may not preserve some species, such as the polar bear, relocation is a hotly debated option for others' long-term survival.
Arizona State University environmental ethicist Ben Minteer and ecologist James P. Collins ask hard questions about the practice, also known as assisted colonization, assisted migration or assisted translocation, in their article "Move it or Lose it" published October 1 in the journal Ecological Applications.
Stress on native species is just one of the unknowns that come into play with translocation of species. There also remains the more critical question of how to evaluate such management decisions, according to Minteer, an associate professor in ASU's School of Life Sciences and researcher in the Center for Biology and Society, and Collins, a Virginia G. Ullman Professor of Natural History and the Environment in ASU's School of Life Sciences in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
"New approaches to conservation, such as MR mean the need for a new 'ecological ethics' geared toward problem-solving in ecological research and policy," says Minteer. "Beyond asking 'should' we do it, there's the more pragmatic ethical question: what separates a 'good' from a 'bad' MR activity?" In
|Contact: Margaret Coulombe|
Arizona State University