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Environmental researchers propose radical 'human-centric' map of the world
Date:11/26/2007

This release is also available in French.

Ecologists pay too much attention to increasingly rare "pristine" ecosystems while ignoring the overwhelming influence of humans on the environment, say researchers from McGill University and the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC).

Prof. Erle Ellis of UMBC and Prof. Navin Ramankutty of McGill assert that the current system of classifying ecosystems into biomes (or "ecological communities") like tropical rainforests, grasslands and deserts may be misleading. Instead, they propose an entirely new model of human-centered "anthropegenic" biomes in the November 19 issue of the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment.

"Ecologists go to remote parts of the planet to study pristine ecosystems, but no one studies it in their back yard," said Ramankutty, assistant professor in McGill's Department of Geography and the Earth System Science Program. "It's time to start putting instrumentation in our back yards both literal and metaphorical to study what's going on there in terms of ecosystem functioning."

Existing biome classification systems are based on natural-world factors such as plant structures, leaf types, plant spacing and climate. The Bailey System, developed in the 1970's, divides North America into four climate-based biomes: polar, humid temperate, dry and humid tropical. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) ecological land classification system identifies 14 major biomes, including tundra, boreal forests, temperate coniferous forests and deserts and xeric shrublands. For their part, Ellis and Ramankutty propose a radically new system of anthropogenic biomes dubbed "anthromes" which includes residential rangelands, dense settlements, villages and croplands.

"Over the last million years, we have had glacial-interglacial cycles, with enormous changes in climate and massive shi
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Contact: Mark Shainblum
mark.shainblum@mcgill.ca
514-398-2189
McGill University
Source:Eurekalert

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