Sustaining and enhancing altered ecosystems has become the new mantra for conservation and restoration managers as ecosystems continue to change in response to global warming and other environmental changes, says a new study led by the University of Colorado at Boulder.
Professor Timothy Seastedt of CU-Boulder's ecology and evolutionary biology department said atmospheric pollution, climate change, exotic species invasions, extinctions and land fragmentation have altered virtually every ecosystem on the planet. Managers and biologists should be nurturing so-called "novel ecosystems" -- thriving combinations of plants, animals and habitat that have never occurred together before -- and developing new conservation strategies for them, he said.
"The reality is that enormous environmental changes are happening very rapidly, and in many cases, there is very little we can do about them," said Seastedt. "We think the trick now is to accept, preserve and enhance these novel ecosystems and do what we can to shield them from further changes."
A paper on the subject was published online Jan. 31 in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, published by the Ecological Society of America. The paper was authored by Seastedt, Richard Hobbs of Murdoch University in Australia and Katharine N. Suding of the University of California, Irvine.
Current management practices often involve trying to fix only one aspect of an ecosystem, like eradicating an invasive species, according to the authors. But in many cases, such action does little to improve the ecosystem's overall health. Invasive plant species that have been removed, for example, are frequently replaced by other invasive species that quickly colonize the ecological "vacuum."
Instead, biologists and managers need to work with new approaches that focus on desired outcomes, emphasizing genetic and species diversity, said Seastedt, also a fellow at CU-Boulder's Institute
|Contact: Timothy Seastedt|
University of Colorado at Boulder