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'Nonlinear' ecosystem response points to environmental solutions
Date:1/17/2008

CORVALLIS, Ore. The preservation of coastal ecosystem services such as clean water, storm buffers or fisheries protection does not have to be an all-or-nothing approach, a new study indicates, and a better understanding of how ecosystems actually respond to protection efforts in a nonlinear fashion could help lead the way out of environmental-versus-economic gridlock.

There may be much better ways to provide the majority of environmental protection needed while still maintaining natural resource-based jobs and sustainable communities, scientists from 13 universities and research institutes will suggest Friday in a new article in the journal Science.

The very concept of ecosystem-based management implies that humans are part of the equation, and their needs also have to be considered, said Lori Cramer, an associate professor of sociology at Oregon State University.

But ecosystem concerns have too often been viewed as an all-or-none choice, and it doesnt have to be that way, Cramer said. What we are learning is that sometimes a little environmental protection can go a long way, and leave room for practical compromises.

In their analysis, a diverse group of scientists from four nations analyzed the values and uses of mangrove forests in Thailand a hot spot of concern about coastal ecosystems being degraded and losing their traditional value of storm protection, wood production and fish habitat. These saltwater forests are frequently being replaced with commercial shrimp farms.

In the past, the scientists said, it was often assumed that the environment responded to protection efforts in a linear fashion in other words, protecting twice as much of a resource generated twice the amount of protection. But the new study, and others like it, are making it more clear that ecosystems respond in a nonlinear fashion protection of a small percentage of a resource might result in a large percentage of the maximum benefit t
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Contact: Sally Hacker
hackers@science.oregonstate.edu
541-737-3707
Oregon State University
Source:Eurekalert

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